The Saudi Press Agency announced on 5/14/2019 between 6-6:30 AM “two pump stations on the East-West pipeline were attacked by armed drones which caused a fire and minor damage to Pump Station No. 8. The fire has since been contained. The pipeline transports Saudi oil from the Eastern Province to Yanbu port. Saudi Aramco has taken all necessary measures and temporarily shut down the pipeline to evaluate its condition. The company is working on restoring the pump station prior to resuming operations.” Another announcement stated these pump stations were in the Dawadmi and Afif Governorates in the Riyadh Region. The Saudi Press Agency declared this is an “act of terrorism and sabotage” and “that it is important for us to face terrorist entities, including the Houthi militias in Yemen that are backed by Iran.”
With the growing use of unmanned aircraft as low cost solutions for sabotage and terrorism, the foremost questions are: (1) How are we going to stay safe and protect ourselves and our infrastructure from those with harmful intents using drones? (2) What can airports or critical infrastructure do if they have a problematic drone or drones flying around?
Ever since we witnessed the Gatwick airport incident where drone sightings lead to repeated closures of the airport, causing massive problems and now with this pumping station incident, many are looking into counter-drone technology.
Providentially, last week the Federal Aviation Administration thought it would be wise to provide additional information to airports in evaluating, demonstrating, or installing UAS detection systems at airports which includes a frequently asked questions document.
The FAA announced the FAA does not support the use of counter-drone systems “by any entities other than the federal departments with explicit statutory authority to use this technology.” The reason for this is many counter-drone systems will violate federal law, and only a handful of federal agencies have approval to exercise some counter-drone equipment.
Setting that aside, the frequently asked questions document raised two practical issues with a counter-drone response: the credibility of the sighting, and the criteria deserving a response.
How do you figure out the credibility of the drone sighting? Was the initial detection verified by visual identification? How do you know if this drone is illegal or flying legally under an FAA-given approval for a client? It can be very difficult to distinguish between a legal flight and a malicious flight just by spotting a drone flying in the sky.
So let’s say you detect there is a drone flying. What is the criteria for determining if an incident is worthy of receiving a counter-drone response? Is there a line drawn in the sand somewhere which will evoke an immediate response?
Any response has to be interwoven into the already well-established, understood, and practiced response plans without introducing some undesirable safety and efficiency impacts. This has to be communicated and coordinated among the many stakeholders. This has NOT been accomplished but the FAA is currently working on it with other federal agencies. Thankfully, the FAA is compiling a checklist of planning factors to help airports, and in the meantime has released a document on the technical considerations for unmanned aircraft detection that airports and critical infrastructure entities would do well to understand. If you dive into the technical considerations document, you’ll notice that each type of counter-drone technology has its own unique problems and benefits.
In conclusion, many great benefits have been actualized with drones which far outweigh the destructive uses we are witnessing. As we see the emergence of this new threat, we should remind ourselves that the use of new technology for harm is not a new concept and should not evoke a knee-jerk response towards the technology itself, but towards the bad wielding it. A custom-tailored solution to each location, entity, and counter-drone technology will be required, so we can all enjoy the many benefits of drones while still being protected.
Interested in drone laws? It can be a pain to try and figure out what is applicable. That is why I created this page! :)
Where NOT to Look for Help With Drone Laws
Here is a tip, stay away from Facebook or anyone else who is a newbie to aviation. They tend to waste your time and provide bad guidance. Seriously, you should be very careful where you get information from – not everyone is qualified to give you information. You don’t install random pieces of software you find on the internet onto your computer. Why would you do that for the laws and legal advice?
For example, I was reading a drone book, by someone very popular on the internet and Youtube, which was just completely – flat out – totally- 100% wrong. The section on drone laws was just horrible. I think this person just hired a copywriter to write the book which resulted in utter garbage. If you were to rely on that bad advice, you could get in trouble and be on the receiving end of a lawsuit or criminal prosecution. Worse yet, on their Youtube channel, they continued to give out legal advice that was incomplete. Either they were keeping their readers in the dark about one critically important piece of advice or they were sincerely, and incorrectly, giving out advice which could result in legal consequences.
You should vet everyone before you give them your time. Here, vet me by looking at my bio.
Where to Look for Help With Drone Laws
You should look at resources in this order:
The actual drone regulations (Part 107, Part 101, Part 47, Part 48, etc.) (Please keep in mind that the laws are constantly changing so even some of the regulations might be outdated.)
The FAA’s website.
My website! You can even use the search feature.
Other competent drone lawyers or consultants (read the two articles below on how to find out as there are some really bad people out there).
There are different levels of governmental authority in the U.S. We have a federated system where we are governed on certain things by the U.S. Federal Government and the state governments with those areas not enumerated to the U.S. government.
Additionally, the states have passed laws allowing counties, cities, and towns to regulate individuals. At any given moment, a person can 3 or 4 levels of laws applying to them. For example, your drone operations could have the federal aviation laws, state drone laws, county drone laws, city or town laws, and maybe even HOA rules all applying to them.
Whether or not the states, counties, and cities can regulation drones is another big issue way outside of the scope of this article. As time goes on, things will shake out as to the scope of the drones laws the states, counties, cities, and towns can create. This will be determined by federal legislation or by federal case law determining what state drone laws are preempted and which drone laws are not.
There are other public laws that have been passed and which were codified in the United States Code. The Department of Justice enforces the Federal Criminal Code in Title 18 and the Federal Aviation Statutes in Title 49 of the United States Code.
The Department of Justice attorneys have been involved at least twice with drone operators: (1) the Skypan case which was originally started in the federal district court in Chicago and (2) in the federal district court in Connecticut with the Haughwout case (the kid who attached a gun and later a flamethrower to a drone).
Regulations are created through the rulemaking process. There are many regulations that apply to drones and I have a federal drone regulations directory page to help people. Below is covering the agencies that enforce the laws but does not go in-depth on the regulations which is what the drone regulations directory page is designed to do.
1. Federal Aviation Regulations (Enforced by the Federal Aviation Administration)
We immediately think of the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) when it comes to drone laws. The FAA enforces the Federal Aviation Regulations (“FARs”) which apply to all sorts of things such as student training, airports, maintenance, flying, aircraft certification, rocket launches, etc.
The two parts of the FARs that apply to drone operators are Part 107 (for non-recreational operations) and Part 101 (for recreational operations). But that is NOT all!
All drones are required to be registered under Part 47 or Part 48.
I have created many articles on the federal aviation regulations. I have listed below the most popular ones.
TSA. The Transportation Safety Administration administers the alien flight student program (governed by the alien flight student regulations). All FAA certificated flight instructors know this and have to be careful regarding providing training as well as doing security awareness training. As I read it, I think the TSA could assert jurisdiction over flight instructors training alien flight students.
DOT. The Department of Transportation has regulations regarding the transportation of hazardous material (i.e. drone medical delivery).
FCC. The Federal Communications Commission regulations radio transmitters, the frequencies they transmit on, and the power of the transmitter. Many people don’t even pay attention to that sticker that is on the back of your controller. Take a chance to read it over some time. The FCC put out an enforcement advisory on “DRONE AUDIO/VIDEO TRANSMITTER ACCESSORIES MUST COMPLY WITH THE COMMISSION’S RULES TO BE MARKETED TO U.S. CUSTOMERS” The FCC has gone after companies who have sold drone related equipment that were transmitting on frequencies they should not, were over the legal power limit, or were not certified.
DOC. You also have the Department of Commerce with the Export Administration Regulations (“EAR”) and the State Department with the International Trafficking in Arms Regulations (“ITAR”). Bard College’s Center for the Study of the Drone published an article detailing multiple prosecutions under ITAR.
NOAA. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) sometimes gets involved because they have jurisdiction over national sanctuaries. NOAA created frequently asked questions regarding NOAA’s regulated overflight zones of West Coast National Marine Sanctuaries.
“Are model aircraft and Unmanned Aircraft System (drone) operations subject to NOAA regulated overflight zones?
A. Yes. Model aircraft and Unmanned Aircraft Systems (drones) propelled by motors qualify as motorized aircraft under regulations of the sanctuaries, and therefore must adhere to sanctuary regulated overflight zones. As with traditional aircraft, UAS could operate above the sanctuaries’ minimum altitude limits, provided Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations allow them to fly at such altitudes. Current FAA rules impose altitude limitations on model aircraft and other Unmanned Aircraft Systems.“
NPS. National Park Service has put out statements in the past prohibiting the operation of drones in national parks. Things have changed. It is hit or miss where you can fly at the different parks. Some locations have designated areas where you can fly but you have to check. Type in the name of the national park plus “compendium” in Google and you should find some helpful results. Additionally, you should call ahead to see if anything has changed.
DOI. The Department of the Interior has regulations and you could get in trouble with some of them. 43 CFR § 9212.1 “Unless permitted in writing by the authorized officer, it is prohibited on the public lands to: . . . (f) Resist or interfere with the efforts of firefighter(s) to extinguish a fire; (g) Enter an area which is closed by a fire prevention order[.]”
B. State Drone Laws
All 50! I created a state drone law directory of all 50 states. I also included some additional resources that would be helpful from the American Legislative Exchange Counsel (ALEC), National Conference of State Legislatures, and the National League of Cities. There is also a link to a model state drone legislation from ALEC.
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Also, just like the federal agencies, state agencies have created regulations that can apply to drones as well. This is another reason you should contact an attorney licensed in that state for help.
II. International Drone Laws
There is no good reliable database of drone laws. I might create one as time goes on.
Below are the resources I have found on the internet that can assist you in finding the laws in a particular country. I do not know how updated they are or accurate. Use at your own risk.
Are you interested in learning about the current U.S. recreational drone laws?
On May 17, 2019, the FAA started implementing Section 349 and 350 of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018. On May 31, 2019, the FAA published Advisory Circular 91-57B which cancelled AC 91-57A and brought everything up-to-date. You need to throw out what you knew about recreational drone laws in the United States as a big reset button has been pressed.
For decades and decades model aircraft were flown with very little restrictions.
The earliest document the FAA published regarding model aircraft flying was Advisory Circular 91-57 which was published in 1981. In February 2007, the FAA published their policy statement indicating that AC 91-57 only applies to modelers and companies and people flying commercial cannot fly under it.
In February 2012, the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 was passed which created Section 336 which prohibited the FAA from creating any new regulation governing model aircraft that fell into the criteria of Section 336. In June 2014, the FAA published there interpretation on Section 336 which further refined the model aircraft and non-model aircraft distinction by saying, “the aircraft would need to be operated purely for recreational or hobby purposes” and seem to start applying already existing manned aircraft regulations to model aircraft (the FAA thought that Section 336 prohibited creating new regulations to model aircraft, not applying already existing regulations that predated Section 336 to model aircraft). In August 2014, multiple lawsuits challenged this interpretation one of which was filed by the Academy of Model Aeronautics.
Advisory Circular 91-57 was updated to AC 91-57A on September 2, 2015 which created more restrictions and also stealthy included a prohibition on flying in special flight rule areas (one of which was the Washington D.C. Special Flight Rules Area). This was challenged by one of the three Taylor v. FAA lawsuits.
In April 2019, the FAA published an official withdrawal of their 2014 model aircraft interpretation. May 17, 2019, the FAA started implementing Section 349 and 350 of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018. On May 31, 2019, the FAA published Advisory Circular 91-57B which cancelled AC 91-57A and brought everything up-to-date.
Because of of the changes from the 2018 FAA Reauthorization, Part 101’s Subpart E model aircraft regulations have been superseded. A giant reset button has been pressed for model aircraft flyers laws.
Note: If you are drone manufacturer, the notification of the recreational drone laws as required by 49 USC Section 40101 will have to be updated since the FAA Reauthorization of 2018 changed things.
Recreational Drone Law Summary:
Section 336 was repealed.
Part 101 Subpart E’s regulations are NO LONGER VALID. These were the recreational drone laws we flew under for a while.
The recreational flyer must pass a test and keep proof of passing the test to show to FAA or law enforcement. The test will cover the recreational drone laws.
Must obtain authorization prior to flying in B, C, D, or E at the surface associated with an airport airspace and complies with all airspace restrictions and prohibitions.
Recreational aircraft have to be registered and marked. Have to show registration to FAA or police if asked.
Flown strictly for recreational purposes.
The aircraft is operated in accordance with or within the programming of a community-based organization’s set of safety guidelines that are developed in coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration.
Flown within the visual line of sight of the person operating the aircraft or a visual observer colocated and in direct communication with the operator.
Does not interfere with and gives way to any manned aircraft.
In Class G airspace
The aircraft is flown from the surface to not more than 400 feet above ground level and
Complies with all airspace restrictions and prohibitions. This would include the 1,000’s of security flight restrictions all over the US that are listed here. Security flight restrictions can be punished with prison time. I talk about how to check for these security flight restrictions and temporary flight restrictions in the Rupprecht Drones’ Airspace and Chart Reading Course.
It’s a crime to fly in runway exclusion zones without authorization. See 49 U.S.C 39B. I talk about this law and other airspace laws in the Rupprecht Drones’ airspace course.
It’s also a crime to fly knowingly or recklessly interfering with, or disrupt the operations of, a manned aircraft in a manner that poses a imminent safety hazard to the occupant(s). See 49 U.S.C 39B.
Recreational flyers will now need to know airspace and how to identify where and where not to fly. Fortunately, I’ve created a 40+ video online course on airspace and chart reading. This course will educate recreational, commercial, and public aircraft flyer so they can fly safely and condidently in the national airspace.
FPV racing is permissible if the co-located visual observer keeps his eyes on the drone racing.
No altitude restriction
400 feet above ground level for G Airspace. B, C, D, and E2 airspace will be whatever the UASFM will allow.
Not clear if Section 336 prevented the FAA from applying preexisting flight restriction regulations that had not been used for decades to model aircraft. This is one of the issues raised in one of the Taylor v. FAA cases the court did not address in their ruling. Basically, were the manned aircraft regulations that existed for years also the recreational drone laws?
Must comply with airspace flight restrictions.
Actual Text of 49 U.S.C. Section 44809 (The New Recreational Drone Laws)
(a) IN GENERAL.—Except as provided in subsection (e), and notwithstanding chapter 447 of title 49, United States Code, a person may operate a small unmanned aircraft without specific certification or operating authority from the Federal Aviation Administration if the operation adheres to all of the following limitations:
(1) The aircraft is flown strictly for recreational purposes.
(2) The aircraft is operated in accordance with or within the programming of a community-based organization’s set of safety guidelines that are developed in coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration.
(3) The aircraft is flown within the visual line of sight of the person operating the aircraft or a visual observer colocated and in direct communication with the operator.
(4) The aircraft is operated in a manner that does not interfere with and gives way to any manned aircraft.
(5) In Class B, Class C, or Class D airspace or within the lateral boundaries of the surface area of Class E airspace designated for an airport, the operator obtains prior authorization from the Administrator or designee before operating and complies with all airspace restrictions and prohibitions.
(6) In Class G airspace, the aircraft is flown from the surface to not more than 400 feet above ground level and complies with all airspace restrictions and prohibitions.
(7) The operator has passed an aeronautical knowledge and safety test described in subsection (g) and maintains proof of test passage to be made available to the Administrator or law enforcement upon request.
(8) The aircraft is registered and marked in accordance with chapter 441 of this title and proof of registration is made available to the Administrator or a designee of the Administrator or law enforcement upon request.
AIRCRAFT THAT DO NOT CONFORM TO THE GENERAL LIMITATIONS:
(b) OTHER OPERATIONS.—Unmanned aircraft operations that do not conform to the limitations in subsection (a) must comply with all statutes and regulations generally applicable to unmanned aircraft and unmanned aircraft systems.
RECREATIONAL AIRCRAFT OPERATIONS AT FIXED SITES:
(c) OPERATIONS AT FIXED SITES.—
(1) OPERATING PROCEDURE REQUIRED.—Persons operating unmanned aircraft under subsection (a) from a fixed site within Class B, Class C, or Class D airspace or within the lateral boundaries of the surface area of Class E airspace designated for an airport, or a community-based organization conducting a sanctioned event within such airspace, shall make the location of the fixed site known to the Administrator and shall establish a mutually agreed upon operating procedure with the air traffic control facility.
(2) UNMANNED AIRCRAFT WEIGHING MORE THAN 55 POUNDS.—A person may operate an unmanned aircraft weighing more than 55 pounds, including the weight of anything attached to or carried by the aircraft, under subsection (a) if—
(A) the unmanned aircraft complies with standards and limitations developed by a community-based organization and approved by the Administrator; and
(B) the aircraft is operated from a fixed site as described in paragraph (1).
(1) IN GENERAL.—The Administrator, in consultation with government, stakeholders, and community-based organizations, shall initiate a process to periodically update the operational parameters under subsection (a), as appropriate.
(2) CONSIDERATIONS.—In updating an operational parameter under paragraph (1), the Administrator shall consider—
(A) appropriate operational limitations to mitigate risks to aviation safety and national security, including risk to the uninvolved public and critical infrastructure;
(B) operations outside the membership, guidelines, and programming of a community-based organization;
(C) physical characteristics, technical standards, and classes of aircraft operating under this section;
(D) trends in use, enforcement, or incidents involving unmanned aircraft systems;
(E) ensuring, to the greatest extent practicable, that updates to the operational parameters correspond to, and leverage, advances in technology; and
(F) equipage requirements that facilitate safe, efficient, and secure operations and further integrate all unmanned aircraft into the national airspace system.
(3) SAVINGS CLAUSE.—Nothing in this subsection shall be construed as expanding the authority of the Administrator to require a person operating an unmanned aircraft under this section to seek permissive authority of the Administrator, beyond that required in subsection (a) of this section, prior to operation in the national airspace system.
(e) STATUTORY CONSTRUCTION.—Nothing in this section shall be construed to limit the authority of the Administrator to pursue an enforcement action against a person operating any unmanned aircraft who endangers the safety of the national airspace system.
FAA CAN CREATE RULES OF GENERAL APPLICABILITY THAT GOVERN RECREATIONAL AIRCRAFT:
(f) EXCEPTIONS.—Nothing in this section prohibits the Administrator from promulgating rules generally applicable to unmanned aircraft, including those unmanned aircraft eligible for the exception set forth in this section, relating to—
(1) updates to the operational parameters for unmanned aircraft in subsection (a);
(2) the registration and marking of unmanned aircraft;
(3) the standards for remotely identifying owners and operators of unmanned aircraft systems and associated unmanned aircraft; and
(4) other standards consistent with maintaining the safety and security of the national airspace system.
FAA TO CREATE KNOWLEDGE AND SAFETY TEST FOR RECREATIONAL FLYERS:
(g) AERONAUTICAL KNOWLEDGE AND SAFETY TEST.—
(1) IN GENERAL.—Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this section, the Administrator, in consultation with manufacturers of unmanned aircraft systems, other industry stakeholders, and community-based organizations, shall develop an aeronautical knowledge and safety test, which can then be administered electronically by the Administrator, a community-based organization, or a person designated by the Administrator.
(2) REQUIREMENTS.—The Administrator shall ensure the aeronautical knowledge and safety test is designed to adequately demonstrate an operator’s—
(A) understanding of aeronautical safety knowledge; and
(B) knowledge of Federal Aviation Administration regulations and requirements pertaining to the operation of an unmanned aircraft system in the national airspace system.
COMMUNITY-BASED ORGANIZATION DEFINED:
(h) COMMUNITY-BASED ORGANIZATION DEFINED.—In this section, the term ‘community-based organization’ means a membership based association entity that—
(1) is described in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986;
(2) is exempt from tax under section 501(a) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986;
(3) the mission of which is demonstrably the furtherance of model aviation;
(4) provides a comprehensive set of safety guidelines for all aspects of model aviation addressing the assembly and operation of model aircraft and that emphasize safe aeromodelling operations within the national airspace system and the protection and safety of individuals and property on the ground, and may provide a comprehensive set of safety rules and programming for the operation of unmanned aircraft that have the advanced flight capabilities enabling active, sustained, and controlled navigation of the aircraft beyond visual line of sight of the operator;
(5) provides programming and support for any local charter organizations, affiliates, or clubs; and
(6) provides assistance and support in the development and operation of locally designated model aircraft flying sites.
FAA IS REQUIRED TO PUBLISH CRITERIA AND PROCESS TO BECOME A COMMUNITY BASED ORGANIZATION:
(i) RECOGNITION OF COMMUNITY-BASED ORGANIZATIONS.—In collaboration with aeromodelling stakeholders, the Administrator shall publish an advisory circular within 180 days of the date of enactment of this section that identifies the criteria and process required for recognition of community-based organizations.’’.
USE OF UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEMS AT INSTITUTIONS OF HIGHER EDUCATION:
(a) EDUCATIONAL AND RESEARCH PURPOSES.—For the purposes of section 44809 of title 49, United States Code, as added by this Act, a ‘‘recreational purpose’’ as distinguished in subsection (a)(1) of such section shall include an unmanned aircraft system operated by an institution of higher education for educational or research purposes.
(b) UPDATES.—In updating an operational parameter under subsection (d)(1) of such section for unmanned aircraft systems operated by an institution of higher education for educational or research purposes, the Administrator shall consider—
(1) use of small unmanned aircraft systems and operations at an accredited institution of higher education, for educational or research purposes, as a component of the institution’s curricula or research;
(2) the development of streamlined, risk-based operational approval for unmanned aircraft systems operated by institutions of higher education; and
(3) the airspace and aircraft operators that may be affected by such operations at the institution of higher education.
(c) DEADLINE FOR ESTABLISHMENT OF PROCEDURES AND STANDARDS.—Not later than 270 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration may establish regulations, procedures, and standards, as necessary, to facilitate the safe operation of unmanned aircraft systems operated by institutions of higher education for educational or research purposes.
(d) DEFINITIONS.—In this section:
(1) INSTITUTION OF HIGHER EDUCATION.—The term ‘‘institution of higher education’’ has the meaning given to that term by section 101(a) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1001(a)).
(2) EDUCATIONAL OR RESEARCH PURPOSES.—The term ‘‘education or research purposes’’, with respect to the operation of an unmanned aircraft system by an institution of higher education, includes—
(A) instruction of students at the institution;
(B) academic or research related uses of unmanned aircraft systems that have been approved by the institution, including Federal research;
(C) activities undertaken by the institution as part of research projects, including research projects sponsored by the Federal Government; and
(D) other academic activities approved by the institution.
(e) STATUTORY CONSTRUCTION.—
(1) ENFORCEMENT.—Nothing in this section shall be construed to limit the authority of the Administrator to pursue an enforcement action against a person operating any unmanned aircraft who endangers the safety of the national airspace system.
(2) REGULATIONS AND STANDARDS.—Nothing in this section prohibits the Administrator from promulgating any rules or standards consistent with maintaining the safety and security of the national airspace system.
Subject: Exception for Limited Recreational Operations of Unmanned Aircraft Date: 5/31/19 AC No: 91-57B
Initiated by: AFS-800 Change:
1 PURPOSE OF THIS ADVISORY CIRCULAR (AC). This AC provides interim safety guidance to individuals operating unmanned aircraft, often referred to as drones, for recreational purposes under the statutory exception for limited recreational operations of unmanned aircraft (Title 49 of the United States Code (49 U.S.C.) § 44809). This AC restates the statutory conditions to operate under the exception and provides additional guidance on adhering to those conditions. Per 49 U.S.C. § 44809, recreational flyers may only operate under the statutory exception if they adhere to all of the conditions listed in the statute.
1.1 Effect of Guidance. This guidance is not legally binding in its own right and will not be relied upon by the Department of Transportation (DOT) or the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as a separate basis for affirmative enforcement action or other administrative penalty. Regardless of whether you rely on this guidance, you are independently required to comply with all existing laws applicable to the operation of unmanned aircraft. Conforming your actions with this guidance is voluntary and nonconformity will not affect any right or obligation under any existing statute or regulation.
2 AUDIENCE. This AC provides guidance to individuals operating unmanned aircraft for recreational purposes in the National Airspace System (NAS) of the United States. The use of the term “recreational operations” in this AC refers to operations described in 49 U.S.C. § 44809(a).
3 WHERE YOU CAN FIND THIS AC. You can find this AC on the FAA’s website at http://www.faa.gov/regulations_policies/advisory_circulars.
4 WHAT THIS AC CANCELS. AC 91-57A CHG 1, Model Aircraft Operating Standards, dated January 11, 2016, is canceled.
5 REFERENCES. This guidance relates to 49 U.S.C. § 44809.
6 RELATED READING MATERIAL (current editions):
Title 49 U.S.C. Subtitle VII.
Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR).
AC 107-2, Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS), which contains 14 CFR part 107 guidance.
Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge (PHAK).
Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Data Delivery System: https://faa.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html.
Federal Register (FR) Notice 84 FR 22552, Exception for Limited Recreational Operations of Unmanned Aircraft.
7 RECREATIONAL UNMANNED AIRCRAFT OPERATIONS. Unmanned aircraft are aircraft without a human pilot on board; they are controlled by an operator on the ground. Operators flying unmanned aircraft can endanger other aircraft, people, or property when flying recklessly or without regard to risks. Additionally, most unmanned aircraft manufactured for recreational use are not tested to any FAA standards for airworthiness, meaning they come with no assurance they will stay airborne or fly in a predictable manner, especially when encountering unexpected circumstances such as radio interference, winds, or power failures. When you fly an unmanned aircraft in the United States, it is your responsibility to ensure the safety of the flight, and to understand and follow the appropriate Federal, state, and local laws.
1. The FAA assumes owners and operators of unmanned aircraft are generally concerned about safety and willing to exercise good judgment when flying their aircraft. However, basic aeronautical knowledge and awareness of responsibilities in shared airspace are not common knowledge.
2. The FAA intends to provide a process for recognizing community-based organizations (CBO) and their safety guidelines for recreational flyers in consultation with manufacturers of UAS, CBOs, and other industry stakeholders upon full implementation of 49 U.S.C. § 44809. In the meantime, this interim guidance provides information on the statutory conditions and basic safety guidelines for recreational flyers. Nevertheless, recreational flyers must always remain aware that any operations endangering the safety of the NAS (particularly careless or reckless operations, those endangering persons or property, and/or those that interfere with or fail to give way to any manned aircraft) will be subject to FAA compliance action.
3. Operators who do not fulfill the criteria of 49 U.S.C. § 44809(a) (e.g., those who wish to fly small unmanned aircraft for commercial purposes) or who wish to obtain an FAA-issued Remote Pilot Certificate, should review part 107 and the associated guidance in AC 107-2. The guidance in AC 91-57 applies to flyers who only operate recreationally under the statutory exception.
7.1 Statutory Conditions. Until further notice, paragraphs 7.1.1 through 7.1.8 provide guidance on how a person may meet the eight statutory conditions of the statutory exception of 49 U.S.C. § 44809 to operate a UAS for recreational purposes. A person who fails to meet any of the statutory requirements of 49 U.S.C. § 44809 may not operate UAS under the statutory exception and would need to operate them under part 107 or any other applicable FAA authority.
7.1.1 The Aircraft is Flown Strictly for Recreational Purposes. Any use of unmanned aircraft for commercial purposes must be conducted under part 107 or other applicable FAA regulations (e.g., 14 CFR part 91, 135, or 137).
7.1.2 The Aircraft is Operated in Accordance With or Within the Programming of a CBO’s Set of Safety Guidelines That are Developed in Coordination With the FAA. Once the FAA has developed the criteria for recognition of CBOs and started officially recognizing CBOs, those CBOs’ safety guidelines will be available for use. During this interim period, the FAA offers two means to satisfy this statutory condition. Recreational flyers should be able to explain to an FAA inspector or law enforcement official which safety guidelines they are following.
220.127.116.11 The FAA acknowledges that existing aeromodelling organizations have developed safety guidelines that are helpful to recreational flyers. An example is the AMA safety guidelines, which have previously been reviewed by the FAA as part of the organization’s Recognized Industry Organization (RIO) status for participation in the National Aviation Events Program (refer to FAA Order 8900.1, Volume 5, Chapter 9, Section 6, Issue/Renew/Reevaluate/Rescind an Air Boss Letter of Authorization). These or existing safety guidelines of another aeromodelling organization may be used for recreational operations, provided the guidelines do not conflict with the other statutory conditions of 49 U.S.C. § 44809(a).
18.104.22.168 The FAA has existing basic safety guidelines for recreational operations, which are available on its website (https://www.faa.gov/uas/) that may be used.
7.1.3 The Aircraft is Flown Within the Visual Line of Sight (VLOS) of the Person Operating the Aircraft or a Visual Observer Co-Located and in Direct Communication With the Operator. This means that either the recreational flyer or the visual observer must have eyes on the aircraft at all times to ensure it is not a collision hazard to other aircraft or people on the ground. The assistance of a visual observer is generally optional but is helpful in ensuring the recreational flyer is able to check instruments for extended periods. The assistance of a visual observer is necessary if the recreational flyer wants to use first person view (FPV) devices that allow a limited view of the surrounding area from the perspective of a camera aboard the aircraft.
22.214.171.124 Visual observers need to be co-located with the recreational flyer, and able to communicate directly with the recreational flyer without the use of technological assistance.
7.1.4 The Aircraft is Operated in a Manner That Does Not Interfere With, and Gives Way to, Any Manned Aircraft. This makes the recreational flyer responsible for knowing the altitude and position of their aircraft in relation to other aircraft, and responsible for maintaining a safe distance from other aircraft by giving way to all other aircraft in all circumstances.
7.1.5 In Class B, C, or D Airspace or Within the Lateral Boundaries of the Surface Area of Class E Airspace Designated for an Airport, the Operator Obtains Prior Authorization From the Administrator or Designee Before Operating and Complies With all Airspace Restrictions and Prohibitions.
126.96.36.199 The FAA has created different classes of airspace to reflect whether aircraft receive air traffic control (ATC) services (these are called controlled or uncontrolled), and to note levels of complexity, traffic density, and equipment requirements that exist for aircraft flying through different parts of controlled airspace. Recreational flyers can learn more about the classes and types of airspace in PHAK Chapter 15, Airspace.
188.8.131.52 For now, recreational flyers may fly in controlled airspace only at fixed sites specifically authorized by the FAA, which are posted at the FAA’s interactive map on the UAS Data Delivery System. On the map, small blue circles depict the location of these sites in controlled airspace, and the altitude limits imposed on those sites. The altitude restrictions are derived from the UAS Facility Maps (UASFM) which form the basic structure of the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) and its operating procedures. Recreational flyers can access site-specific information by clicking on the blue circle. Recreational flyers may also refer to the actual airspace authorization and a list of sites on the FAA’s UAS website at www.faa.gov/uas. Note: These sites have existing letters of agreement (LOA) with the FAA. For the CBO to operate in controlled airspace, an agreement between the CBO and the FAA must be in place. Certain sites may have access restrictions or other operating limitations, which are available from the site sponsor.
184.108.40.206 Do not contact local FAA Air Traffic facilities for airspace authorizations.
220.127.116.11 In order to stay notified of airspace restrictions and prohibitions, recreational flyers can determine any restrictions or requirements in effect at the location where they want to fly by referencing the FAA’s interactive map on the UAS Data Delivery System. On the map, semi-transparent polygons depict airspace information. UAS flight restrictions are shown as red polygons. UAS flight restrictions apply to all UAS flight operations, and remain in effect 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Recreational flyers may also refer to:
1. The FAA’s TFR listing; or
2. The FAA’s Airspace Restrictions website.
7.1.6 In Class G (Uncontrolled) Airspace, the Aircraft is Flown From the Surface to Not More Than 400 Feet Above Ground Level and Complies With all Airspace Restrictions and Prohibitions.
7.1.7 The Operator has Passed an Aeronautical Knowledge and Safety Test and Maintains Proof of Test Passage to be Made Available to the Administrator or a Designee of the Administrator or Law Enforcement Upon Request. The FAA is developing the test in consultation with stakeholders. Recreational flyers would have to pass the test, which could be administered electronically, and would be responsible for providing proof of passage upon request from FAA personnel or law enforcement. The FAA will provide additional guidance and notice when the test is available and the date on which adherence to this condition would be required.
7.1.8 The Aircraft is Registered and Externally Marked, and Proof of Registration is Made Available to the Administrator or a Designee of the Administrator or Law Enforcement Upon Request. Additionally, per the statutory requirements of 49 U.S.C. § 44809(a)(8), proof of registration would have to be carried and provided to FAA personnel or law enforcement upon request. Recreational flyers may register electronically under 14 CFR part 48 through the FAADroneZone.
18.104.22.168 Persons 13 years of age or older may register aircraft. If the person is younger than 13, they may not register the aircraft, but another person 13 years of age or older may register the aircraft.
22.214.171.124 A person will need an email address, credit or debit card, a physical address, and a mailing address (if different from the registrant’s physical address) to register electronically under part 48.
126.96.36.199 Under part 48, a person may only operate a small unmanned aircraft if the registration number or unique identifier of the aircraft is legibly displayed on an external surface of the aircraft.
7.2 Upcoming Guidance.
7.2.1 CBO Requirements and Procedures. The FAA intends to provide further information on how organizations can be recognized by the FAA as official CBOs.
7.2.2 Basic Aeronautical Training and Test (BATT). The FAA is developing a training module with an accompanying test to provide basic aeronautical education to all recreational flyers and enhance the safety of the NAS through greater education and awareness. The training and test will be developed in consultation with stakeholders. The FAA expects to provide the training module and test to recognized CBOs for online administration to their members and also to the general public.
7.2.3 LAANC. The FAA currently is upgrading the LAANC system, which will allow recreational flyers far greater flexibility in the future to obtain automated authorization to controlled airspace. The FAA also is exploring upgrades to FAADroneZone to enable access for recreational flyers.
8 ADDITIONAL INFORMATION. For additional information on unmanned aircraft, please visit the FAA’s UAS website at http://www.faa.gov/uas/.
9 AC FEEDBACK FORM. For your convenience, the AC Feedback Form is the last page of this AC. Note any deficiencies found, clarifications needed, or suggested improvements regarding the contents of this AC on the Feedback Form.
Robert C. Carty Deputy Executive Director, Flight Standards Service
Actual text of Federal Register Announcement on the New Recreational Drone Laws
BILLING CODE 4910-13-P DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION Federal Aviation Administration [Docket No. FAA-2019-0364]
Exception for Limited Recreational Operations of Unmanned Aircraft AGENCY: Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Department of Transportation (DOT).
ACTION: Notice implementing the exception for limited recreational operations of unmanned aircraft.
SUMMARY: This action provides notice of the statutory exception for limited recreational operations of unmanned aircraft. It also describes the agency’s incremental implementation approach for the exception and how individuals can operate recreational unmanned aircraft (commonly referred to as drones) today under the exception.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For questions concerning this notice, contact Danielle Corbett, Aviation Safety Inspector, Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Office, 490 L’Enfant Plaza SW, Suite 7225, Washington, DC 20024, telephone (844) 359-6982, email [email protected]
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: I. Background Operators of small unmanned aircraft (also referred to as drones) for recreational purposes must follow the rules in 14 CFR part 107 for FAA certification and operating authority unless they follow the conditions of the Exception for Limited Recreational This document is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on 05/17/2019 and available online at https://federalregister.gov/d/2019-10169, and on govinfo.gov Operations of Unmanned Aircraft, discussed in this notice. The FAA refers to individuals operating under that statutory exception as “recreational flyers.”
On October 5, 2018, the President signed the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 (Pub. L. 115-254). Section 349 of that Act repealed the Special Rule for Model Aircraft (section 336 of Pub. L. 112-95; Feb. 14, 2012) and replaced it with new conditions to operate recreational small unmanned aircraft without requirements for FAA certification or operating authority. The Exception for Limited Recreational Operations of Unmanned Aircraft established by section 349 is codified at 49 U.S.C. 44809.
With the repeal of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft, the regulations at 14 CFR part 101, subpart E, which implemented the Special Rule, are no longer valid, and the FAA intends to remove that subpart in the near future.
Section 44809(a) provides eight conditions that must be satisfied to use the exception for recreational small unmanned aircraft (those weighing less than 55 pounds). Some of those conditions (specifically the aeronautical knowledge and safety test as well as recognition of community-based organizations and coordination of their safety guidance) cannot be implemented immediately. Accordingly, the FAA is incrementally implementing section 44809 to facilitate recreational unmanned aircraft operations. The next section sets forth the eight statutory conditions, explains how the agency is implementing each of them, and provides guidance to recreational flyers.
Recreational flyers must adhere to all of the statutory conditions to operate under the Exception for Limited Recreational Operation of Unmanned Aircraft. Otherwise, the recreational operations must be conducted under 14 CFR part 107.
Although 49 U.S.C. 44809(c) permits operations of some unmanned aircraft weighing more than 55 pounds under additional conditions and as approved by the FAA, the FAA intends to publish guidance concerning operations of these larger unmanned aircraft in the near future.
II. Statutory Conditions and Additional Guidance
The eight statutory conditions are as follows:
1. The aircraft is flown strictly for recreational purposes.
Your unmanned aircraft must be flown for only a recreational purpose throughout the duration of the operation. You may not combine recreational and commercial purposes in a single operation. If you are using the unmanned aircraft for a commercial or business purpose, the operation must be conducted under 14 CFR part 107 or other applicable FAA regulations.
2. The aircraft is operated in accordance with or within the programming of a community-based organization’s set of safety guidelines that are developed in coordination with the FAA.
The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 requires the FAA and community-based aeromodelling organizations (CBOs) to coordinate the development of safety guidelines for recreational small unmanned aircraft operations. 49 U.S.C. 44809(a)(2). CBOs are defined in section 44809(h) and must be recognized by the FAA in accordance with section 44809(i). Section 44809(i) requires the FAA to publish guidance establishing the criteria and process for recognizing CBOs. The FAA is developing the criteria and intends to collaborate with stakeholders through a public process.
Until the FAA establishes the criteria and process and begins recognizing CBOs, it cannot coordinate the development of safety guidelines. Accordingly, no recognized CBOs or coordinated safety guidelines currently exist, as contemplated by section 44809(a)(2). Additionally, the FAA acknowledges that aeromodelling organizations have developed safety guidelines that are helpful to recreational flyers. The FAA has determined that it is in the public interest to reasonably interpret this condition to allow recreational unmanned aircraft operations under the exception while the FAA implements all statutory conditions. The alternative would be to prohibit these operations or to require all operators of recreational unmanned aircraft to obtain a remote pilot certificate under 14 CFR part 107 and comply with the part 107 operating rules. Accordingly, to facilitate continued recreational unmanned aircraft operations during the implementation process, the FAA finds that operations conducted in accordance with existing safety guidelines of an aeromodelling organization satisfy this condition, provided those guidelines do not conflict with the other statutory conditions of section 44809(a).
Alternatively, during this interim period, the FAA directs recreational flyers to existing basic safety guidelines, which are based on industry best practices, on its website (faa.gov/uas):
Fly only for recreational purposes
Keep your unmanned aircraft within your visual line-of-sight or within the visual line of sight of a visual observer who is co-located and in direct communication with you
Do not fly above 400 feet in uncontrolled (Class G) airspace
Do not fly in controlled airspace without an FAA authorization
Follow all FAA airspace restrictions, including special security instructions and temporary flight restrictions
Never fly near other aircraft
Always give way to all other aircraft
Never fly over groups of people, public events, or stadiums full of people
Never fly near emergency response activities
Never fly under the influence of drugs or alcohol
You also should be able to explain to an FAA inspector or law enforcement official which safety guidelines you are following if you are flying under the exception for limited recreational unmanned aircraft operations.
The FAA will provide notice when it has issued final guidance and has started recognizing CBOs.
3. The aircraft is flown within the visual line of sight of the person operating the aircraft or a visual observer co-located and in direct communication with the operator.
Either the person manipulating the controls of the recreational unmanned aircraft or a visual observer, who is near the operator and able to communicate verbally, must have eyes on the aircraft at all times to ensure the unmanned aircraft is not a collision hazard to other aircraft or people on the ground. Using a visual observer generally is optional, but a visual observer is required for first-person view (FPV) operations, which allow a view from an onboard camera but limit the operator’s ability to scan the surrounding airspace.
4. The aircraft is operated in a manner that does not interfere with and gives way to any manned aircraft.
When flying an unmanned aircraft, you are responsible for knowing the aircraft’s altitude and its position in relation to other aircraft. You also are responsible for maintaining a safe distance from other aircraft by giving way to all other aircraft in all circumstances.
5. In Class B, Class C, or Class D airspace or within the lateral boundaries of the surface area of Class E airspace designated for an airport, the operator obtains prior authorization from the Administrator or designee before operating and complies with all airspace restrictions and prohibitions.
Classes B, C, D, and E are collectively referred to as controlled airspace. The FAA has created different classes of airspace to reflect whether aircraft receive air traffic control services and to note levels of complexity, traffic density, equipment, and operating requirements that exist for aircraft flying through different parts of controlled airspace. Generally, these classes of controlled airspace are found near airports.
Manned aircraft operations receive air traffic control services in controlled airspace and are authorized in controlled airspace as part of these services. Small unmanned aircraft operations do not receive air traffic services, but they must be authorized in the airspace because FAA air traffic control is responsible for managing the safety and efficiency of controlled airspace. For operations under part 107, the FAA has an online system, Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC), to provide this real-time, automated authorization. Part 107 operators also can request airspace authorization through FAA’s DroneZone portal, but this manual process can take longer.
The FAA currently is upgrading LAANC to enable recreational flyers to obtain automated authorization to controlled airspace. The FAA is committed to quickly implementing LAANC for recreational flyers. The FAA also is exploring upgrades to DroneZone to enable access for recreational flyers.
Authorization to Operate Recreational Unmanned Aircraft at Certain Fixed Sites in Controlled Airspace
Until LAANC is available for recreational operations, the FAA is granting temporary airspace authorizations to operate at certain fixed sites (commonly referred to as flying fields) that are established by an agreement with the FAA. For fixed sites that are located in controlled airspace two or more miles from an airport, operations are authorized up to the unmanned aircraft system (UAS) facility map (UASFM) altitudes. The FAA is reviewing fixed sites located within two miles of an airport and will make individualized determinations of what airspace authorization is appropriate. Aeromodelling organizations that sponsor fixed sites, regardless of their location within controlled airspace, can obtain additional information about requesting airspace authorization from the person identified in the “For further information, contact” section of this document.
During this interim period, you may fly in controlled airspace only at authorized fixed sites. The list of authorized fixed sites is available on the FAA’s website at www.faa.gov/uas and will be depicted on the maps on the FAA’s UAS Data Delivery System, which is available at https://udds-faa.opendata.arcgis.com. Agreements establishing fixed sites may contain additional operating limitations. If you fly at a fixed site in controlled airspace, you must adhere to the operating limitations of the agreement, which is available from the fixed site sponsor.
As a reminder, existing FAA rules provide that you may not operate in any designated restricted or prohibited airspace. This includes airspace restricted for national security reasons or to safeguard emergency operations, including law enforcement activities. The easiest way to determine whether any restrictions or special requirements are in effect as well as the authorized altitudes where you want to fly is to use the maps on the FAA’s UAS Data Delivery System, which is available at https://uddsfaa.opendata.arcgis.com, and to check for the latest FAA Notices to Airmen (NOTAMs). This information may also be available from third-party applications.
The FAA will provide notice when LAANC is available for use by recreational flyers.
Please do not contact FAA Air Traffic facilities for airspace authorization because these facilities will no longer accept requests to operate recreational unmanned aircraft in controlled airspace.
6. In Class G airspace, the aircraft is flown from the surface to not more than 400 feet above ground level and complies with all airspace restrictions and prohibitions.
Class G airspace is uncontrolled airspace in which the FAA does not provide air traffic services.
You may operate recreational unmanned aircraft in this airspace up to an altitude of 400 feet above ground level (AGL).
Additionally, you may not operate in any designated restricted or prohibited airspace. This includes airspace restricted for national security reasons or to safeguard emergency operations, including law enforcement activities. The easiest way to determine whether any restrictions or special requirements are in effect where you want to fly is to use the maps on the FAA’s UAS Data Delivery System, which is available at https://udds-faa.opendata.arcgis.com, and to check for the latest FAA NOTAMs.
7. The operator has passed an aeronautical knowledge and safety test and maintains proof of test passage to be made available to the Administrator or a designee of the Administrator or law enforcement upon request.
Section 44809(g) requires the FAA to develop, in consultation with stakeholders, an aeronautical knowledge and safety test that can be administered electronically. This test is intended to demonstrate a recreational flyer’s knowledge of aeronautical safety knowledge and rules for operating unmanned aircraft.
The FAA currently is developing an aeronautical knowledge and safety test and plans to engage stakeholders on its development through a public process.
The FAA acknowledges that satisfying this statutory condition is impossible until the FAA establishes the aeronautical knowledge and safety test. For the reasons discussed earlier in this document, the FAA has determined this condition will apply only after the FAA develops and makes available the knowledge and safety test. Accordingly, during this interim period, recreational flyers who adhere to the other seven conditions under section 44809(a), may use the exception for limited recreational unmanned aircraft operations.
The FAA will provide additional guidance and notice when the aeronautical knowledge and safety test is available and the date on which adherence to this condition is required.
8. The aircraft is registered and marked and proof of registration is made available to the Administrator or a designee of the Administrator or law enforcement upon request.
Registration and marking requirements for small unmanned aircraft, including recreational unmanned aircraft, can be found at 14 CFR part 48, and online registration can be completed at faa.gov/uas/getting_started/registration/. Each unmanned aircraft used for limited recreational operations must display the registration number on an external surface of the aircraft. Recreational flyers also must maintain proof of registration and make it available to FAA inspectors or law enforcement officials upon request.
The FAA remains committed to facilitating safe operation of recreational unmanned aircraft to the maximum extent authorized by Congress, while effectively addressing national security and public safety concerns. The FAA is devoting resources to fully implement this new framework as expeditiously as possible.
This interim implementation guidance provides information to recreational flyers on how to comply with the statutory conditions for the Exception for Limited Recreational Operations of Unmanned Aircraft, codified at 49 U.S.C. 44809. Accordingly, the FAA has determined this interim implementation guidance does not independently generate costs for recreational flyers.
The FAA has updated FAA Advisory Circular 91-57B to reflect the interim guidance provided in this notice. The FAA will continue to provide updated direction and guidance as implementation proceeds. The FAA intends to follow up with regulatory amendments to formalize the exception for limited recreational unmanned aircraft operations.
The guidance provided in this notice is not legally binding in its own right and will not be relied upon by the Department or the FAA as a separate basis for affirmative enforcement action or other administrative penalty. Regardless of whether you rely on the guidance in this document, you are independently required to comply with all existing laws applicable to the operation of unmanned aircraft systems. Conforming your actions with the guidance in this notice does not excuse or mitigate noncompliance with other applicable legal requirements.
Nevertheless, if your operation fails to satisfy the eight statutory conditions, as described in this notice, or if you are not operating under part 107 or other FAA authority, your operation may violate other FAA regulations and subject you to enforcement action. Additionally, if you operate your recreational unmanned aircraft carelessly or recklessly, the FAA may exercise existing authority to take enforcement action against you for endangering the national airspace system.
Please continue to check faa.gov/uas on a regular basis for the most current direction and guidance.
Issued in Washington, D.C. on May 8, 2019. Robert C. Carty, Deputy Executive Director, Flight Standards Service. [FR Doc. 2019-10169 Filed: 5/16/2019 8:45 am; Publication Date: 5/17/2019]
Text of Certificate of Authorization for Limited Recreational Purposes at Fixed Sites
Issued To: Recreational flyers operating unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) as defined under the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act of 2018 Section 349, Exception for limited recreational operations of unmanned aircraft (49 U.S.C. 44809).
This certificate is issued for the operations specifically described hereinafter. No person shall conduct any operation pursuant to the authority of this certificate except in accordance with the standard and special provisions contained in this certificate, and such other requirements of the Federal Aviation Regulations not specifically waived by this certificate.
OPERATIONS AUTHORIZED Operation of an UAS, flown within visual line of sight and solely for limited recreational purposes: At fixed sites (commonly referred to as flying fields) that are established by an agreement with the FAA, as listed at http://udds-faa.opendata.arcgis.com/. Operations at the listed fixed sites are authorized up to the altitudes indicated on the unmanned aircraft system (UAS) facility map (UASFM).
LIST OF WAIVED REGULATIONS BY SECTION AND TITLE N/A
STANDARD PROVISIONS 1. A copy of the application made for this certificate shall be attached and become a part hereof. 2. This certificate shall be presented for inspection upon the request of any authorized representative of the Federal Aviation Administration, or of any State or municipal official charged with the duty of enforcing local laws or regulations. 3. The holder of this certificate shall be responsible for the strict observance of the terms and provisions contained herein. 4. This certificate is nontransferable.
Note-This certificate constitutes a waiver of those Federal rules or regulations specifically referred to above. It does not constitute a waiver of any State law or local ordinance.
SPECIAL PROVISIONS Special Provisions 1 and 2, inclusive, are set forth in this authorization.
This certificate for operations authorized by 49 U.S.C. 44809 is effective from May 17, 2019, through December 31, 2019, and is subject to cancellation at any time upon notice by the Administrator or his/her authorized representative. BY DIRECTION OF THE ADMINISTRATOR FAA Headquarters, AJV-115
Scott J. Gardner
Acting Manager, FAA, Emerging Technologies Team
1. FLIGHT OPERATIONS: a. This authorization can be rescinded by the FAA at any time and is issued in order to allow recreational operations to continue while the FAA evaluates and develops a long term plan for implementation of 49 U.S.C. 44809. This authorization should be considered temporary in nature and non-precedent setting for future recreational operations. Do not contact FAA Air Traffic facilities for airspace authorization because these facilities will no longer accept requests to operate recreational unmanned aircraft in controlled airspace.
b. Any impacted air traffic control facility may disapprove, terminate, restrict, or delay UAS flight operations covered by this authorization at any time. Agreements establishing fixed sites may contain additional operating limitations. While flying at a fixed site in controlled airspace, you must adhere to the operating limitations of the agreement, which is available from the fixed site sponsor.
c. This Authorization and the Special Provisions shall be in effect between civil sunrise and civil sunset local time.
d. Recreational operations are to be conducted in accordance with or within the programming of a Community Based Organization’s (CBO) set of safety guidelines that are developed in coordination with the FAA. Once the FAA has established the criteria and begins recognizing CBOs, those CBOs’ safety guidelines will be available for use. During this interim period, the FAA offers two means to satisfy this statutory condition; existing safety guidelines of aeromodelling organization, provided the guidelines do not conflict with other statutory conditions of 49 U.S.C. § 44809(a), or the existing basic safety guidelines for recreational operations, which are available on the FAA website (https://www.faa.gov/uas/).
e. As the FAA continues to review additional recreational flyer sites, the authorized locations may change. Therefore, the recreational flyer is responsible for reviewing and complying with the authorized recreational flyer sites within the published UASFM at http://udds-faa.opendata.arcgis.com/. Prior to each flight to ensure that no changes have been made to the map (i.e., altitude changes, airspace modifications, etc).
f. The recreational flyer must check the airspace they are operating in and comply with all restrictions that may be present in accordance with Restricted Areas, Prohibited Areas, Special Flight Rule Areas or the Washington DC Flight Restricted Zone. See https://www.faa.gov/air_traffic/flight_info/aeronav/ for information on ordering charts.
g. The recreational flyer is responsible for avoiding operations in security areas or over sensitive locations identified in red. View current security areas, at http://uddsfaa. opendata.arcgis.com/. View current Notices to Airmen (NOTAMS) at https://pilotweb.nas.faa.gov/PilotWeb/.
h. Recreational flyers should also be familiar with the information contained in the most current version of the Advisory Circular (AC) 91-57.
i. The recreational flyer must operate the aircraft in a manner that does not interfere with and gives way to any manned aircraft.
2. EMERGENCY/CONTINGENCY PROCEDURES – Lost Link/Lost Communications Procedures:
a. If the UA loses communications or loses its Global Positioning System signal, all emergency/contingency procedures should be planned to ensure that the unmanned aircraft remains within the recreational flyer site.
b. The recreational flyer must abort the flight in the event of unexpected hazards or an emergency.
Actual Leaked FAA Memo Regarding New Recreational Drone Laws
I contacted the FAA and this document was verified as legitimate.
Subject: Mandatory Briefing Item: Pre-Duty Brief – Operational Personnel Sec 349 sUAS Implementation, due May 16, 2019
Due to changes in the law mandated by the 2018 FAA Reauthorization Act, all hobbyist or recreational Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) operators are required to have authorization from Air Traffic to fly in controlled airspace. This new law puts restrictions in place that limit all recreational operations to less than 400 feet in uncontrolled airspace and requires approval for any operation in controlled airspace. This memo and attached pre-duty brief serves as interim guidance for the implementation of this new law.
Previously, recreational flyers could communicate with the lower or controlling facility and notify of “intent to fly.” The language in the previous law was vague and did not allow for or require, an intervention or approval from air traffic controllers. This new law will remove local air traffic controller involvement with recreational UAS operators and reduce distractions and phone calls while improving the safety of the National Airspace System (NAS).
Air Traffic Facilities should not authorize or approve any recreational flight. The purpose of this implementation plan is to diminish the need for calls to the towers from any recreational operator requesting to fly in controlled airspace. The authorization and restrictions for recreational UAS operators will be a National Authorization for fixed sites in controlled airspace as detailed below:
Recreational UAS operators will be authorized to fly in controlled airspace at fixed sites that will be listed via multiple venues from Federal Register Notice (FRN), Advisory Circular (AC) and FAA Office of Communications (AOC) public releases.
Approximately 350 Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) fixed sites are located in controlled airspace, but less than 200 are listed for recreational UAS use.
These sites will be more than 2 miles from a runway surface and be required to operate in accordance with altitudes specified in Unmanned Aircraft Systems Facility Map’s (UASFM).
The authorizations will be in the form of a National Authorization with national restrictions that have been approved by Law, DOT and FAA HQ. Therefore, air traffic controller personnel or support staff should not make any phone calls or authorizations,
This is a significant change in how we have previously conducted business. Please be understanding when recreational UAS operators call; use the language in the attached pre-duty brief and refer them to www.faa.gov/uas for guidance on how and where to operate.
Refer all Recreational Flyer or general inquiries to www.faa.gov/uas.
Air Traffic Managers must ensure all operational personnel are briefed on the attached PowerPoint no later than May 16 as this briefing is a pre-duty requirement.
If you have any questions or need further information, please contact Henry Rigol, at [email protected] or (202) 267-8185, or William Stanton at [email protected] or (202) 267-4564, Air Traffic Services, Operational Integration, AJT-3.
Calvin Rohan, Acting Director, Air Traffic Operations, Eastern Service Area, AJT-EN/ES
Tony Mello, Director, Air Traffic Operations, Central Service Area, AJT-CN/CS
Jeff Stewart, Acting Director, Air Traffic Operations, Western Service Area, AJT-WN/WS
Actual Leaked Text of New Hobby Drone Law PowerPoint Pages
FAA Reauthorization Bill
Old Law (2012 FAA Bill – Section 336)
Recreational/Hobbyist/Modeler required to notify tower if flying within 5 miles of the airport.
ATC could not approve operation – only accept notification.
ATC could deny operations for safety reasons.
FAA Reauthorization Bill
NEW LAW (2018 FAA Bill – Section 349)
Hobbyst UAS now called Limited Recreational Flyers
FAA Air Traffic facilities will no longer accept requests for recreational flyers to operate controlled airspace.
Controlled Airspace Access:
At fixed sites (commonly referred to as flying fields) Have an established agreement with the FAA
Site locations published at http://uas-aa.opendata.arcgis.com/
Operations only authorized up to the altitudes indicated on the UAS facility map (UASFM)
FAA Reauthorization Bill
Controlled Airspace Access Continued
Operations only between sunrise and sunset local time
Site must be made known to the facility
Impacted air traffic control facility may disapprove, terminate, restricted, or delay UAS flight operations covered by this authorization at any time
This authorization will be effective on 17 May 2019
ATC Facility Instructions
What do I do if I get a call from a RECREATIONAL, HOBBYIST, OR MODELER wanting to fly in my airspace?
Inform the caller that due to a recent change in the law, authorization is required to fly in controlled airspace and will no longer be given by ATC over the phone. The authorization can be found at www.faa.gov/uas.
Inform the caller that they can find areas where they are allowed to fly by visiting www.faa.gov/uas.
Refer any additional questions from sUAS operator to the Advisory Circular 91-57B or www.faa.gov/uas.
AGAIN – STARTING MAY 17th – NO MORE HOBBYIST/MODELER NOTIFICATION CALLS TO THE TOWER
How will Recreational Users Know About These New Procedures?
Recreational Flyers can find information on these changes and operating procedures under the new law:
The Department of Transportation made three major announcements that will be an advancement for the commercial drone industry: (1) proposed regulations to allow drone operators to fly over people as well as at night WITHOUT a waiver or an exemption, (2) an advanced notice of proposed rule making asking for recommendations on countering problematic drones affecting safety and security, and (3) the awarding of three contracts to commercial service entities to develop technology to provide flight planning, communications, separation, and weather services for drones under 400ft.
Proposed Regulations for Relaxing the Prohibition on Operations Over People and Night Operations.
The commercial drone industry has been greatly hampered because Part 107
prohibits the flying over non-participating people and also prohibits
operations at night. The only way around
these prohibitions is to obtain a waiver or an exemption. Night waivers are attainable
but over people waiver application denial rates are around 99%. Yikes.
Operations over people is significant because not only are those
operations valuable within line of sight, they become extremely valuable when
you want to fly beyond line of sight. Why? Generally, you can’t really figure
out if you are flying over people when you are beyond line of sight because of
just that – it’s beyond your line of sight – so you just must assume so.
Keep in mind that this is not just night and over people being changed. Part
107 is being “refreshed” to make things better. For example, the current 107 says
you must show require documentation to FAA inspectors, but the proposed
regulation is saying you have to present required documentation also to a
National Transportation Safety Board representative; any federal, state, or
local law enforcement officer; or a representative of the Transportation
The major highlights of the proposed regulations are:
You can operate over non-participating people provided your operation meets the requirements of at least one of the operational categories. There will be three categories of aircraft which each have their corresponding benefits:
Category 1. 0.55 pound (250 grams) and under aircraft which can fly over people without any design standards, manufacturer does not have to prove anything to the FAA, and no operational restrictions other than just Part 107.
Category 2. No operational restriction aircraft. Weighs more than 0.55 pounds and:
Has been satisfactorily demonstrated to the FAA by the manufacturer they are below the Category 2 injury threshold,
No exposed rotating parts that could lacerate human skin, and
Have been satisfactorily demonstrated to the FAA by the manufacturer they are below the Category 3 injury threshold,
No exposed rotating parts that could lacerate human skin, and
Because of its FAA identified safety defect, is required to have operational mitigations requiring the pilot to (1) not fly over any open-air assembly of people, (2) fly only over a closed or restricted access site with everyone on the site being notified, and (3) does not maintain sustained flight over the human being (only briefly transiting).
Even though you can operate over people with category 2 and 3 aircraft, you cannot operate over people in a moving vehicle.
The initial knowledge exam will cover operations at night.
Instead of doing a recurrent knowledge exam at a testing center, you can do recurrent training online instead. Recurrent knowledge testing currently does not test on weather, aircraft loading, physiological effects of drugs & alcohol, etc. while recurrent training would test you on those topics.
Don’t get too excited. These are proposed regulations. On average, you are
looking at around 1.5 years until a notice of proposed rulemaking becomes a final
regulation you can operate under. Plus, the proposal said, the FAA does not
plan on publishing the final rule for operations over people AND night operations
until the remote identification rulemaking is finalized. The
remote identification rulemaking has not been published yet. That’s still
working its way through the system. Don’t confuse that with the advance notice
of proposed rulemaking which was also announced.
Seeking Recommendations on Managing Problematic
The DOT is planning on issuing
an advance notice of proposed rulemaking. “An advance notice of proposed
rulemaking (ANPRM) tells the public that FAA is considering an area for
rulemaking and requests written comments on the appropriate scope of the
rulemaking or on specific topics.” Why is this advance notice of proposed rulemaking
so great? It gives you, the public, an opportunity to provide recommendations
to the FAA to influence their future rulemaking.
Regardless of whichever side you are on, this DOT advance notice of
proposed rulemaking is requesting you to provide comments on 26 questions
ranging from required minimum stand-off distances for unmanned aircraft to
establishing design requirements for systems critical to safety of flight
during beyond visual line of sight operations. This is the perfect forum to raise
Unmanned Aircraft Systems Traffic
Management Systems Pilot Project Awarded
The UAS UTM Pilot Project (UPP) contracts were awarded to:
Nevada UAS Test Site Smart Silver State
Northern Plains Unmanned Aircraft Systems Test Site
The DOT is continuing the drone integration efforts by changing the
regulations to be more pro-business while wisely seeking input on how to handle
problematic drones. The over people
regulations and the UPP will be beneficial in helping build the foundation
towards more beyond visual line of sight operations in the future. While these
regulations won’t be coming into effect immediately, we can start preparing now
to position ourselves for more unrestricted operations in the future.
Drones are really just aerial platforms from which to do things. Most people associate drones as data collection platforms where you mount sensors such as cameras, LIDAR, etc., but drones can also be used for the delivery of all sorts of other things besides just drone package delivery or medical delivery. One great example is using the drone as a drone sprayer. Keep in mind that there are attachments for drones to do things other than just spraying (e.g. drone granule spreader).
As of 4/27/2019, I’ve helped 9 clients obtain exemptions for agricultural aircraft operations and 3 clients obtain agricultural aircraft operating certificates. I’m a commercial pilot, current FAA certificated flight instructor, aviation attorney, and former professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. I distilled into this article some of the important points that I have used as I have assisted clients in successfully obtaining Federal Aviation Administration approvals to operate their drone sprayers. If you need my help with exemptions, a Part 107 night waiver, going through the 137 agricultural aircraft operator certification, please contact me for pricing.
I’m going to touch on the high points of each of these drone sprayer uses. Please keep in mind that each drone sprayer has is own set of unique problems, economics, laws, etc. My commentary is not an exhaustive discussion on the whole area.
A. Pollen Drone Sprayer
There is a problematic decline of bee population numbers around the United States which has been caused for various reasons. Dropcopter has stepped into this gap with a very innovative idea of using their drone sprayer to pollinate crops.
“Pollination by drone isn’t the only alternative to insect pollination, but it may just be the most efficient current solution. Alternatives include using large tractor-mounted liquid sprayers or leaf blowers driven on quad bikes. Both of these are problematic due to the lack of reach and, in the case of liquid sprayers, the time-sensitive nature of the pollen once it gets mixed with liquid. Dropcopter’s drones, meanwhile, can cover 40 acres per hour, and can double the pollination window by also flying at night. This is one advantage they even have over bees since bees don’t fly at nighttime, when flowers remain open.”
If you are a government agency that fights mosquitoes or other pests, there is the potential for your operations to be done under a certain type of classification called a public aircraft operation which gives your operation more flexibility than non-government entities. See below for a discussion. If you are interested in helping your mosquito control district use drone sprayers, contact me.
Mosquitoes are not the only insects you might be interested in fighting. Drone Volt created a mount to spray insecticide on hornet nests way up in trees.
C. Crop Dusting Drones (Herbicide, Fertilizer, Fungicide, etc.)
Drone sprayers seem like a good choice to be crop dusting drones but there are MANY variables here that affect whether it is a good decision for your situation or not. Factors that influence whether this makes sense or not are:
Type of crop,
Value of the crop,
Ground size of the crop,
Droplet size requirements to be placed on the crop,
How quickly you need to spray a particular chemical on a crop (is there a window of time?), and
How much liquid you need to spray.
For large areas of land, manned aircraft and ground spraying rigs make more sense based upon cost per acre compared to crop dusting drones. Read my section below on the economics to understand this fully. For smaller pieces of land or land that is inaccessible to ground rigs or manned aircraft, it might make sense to use crop dusting drones.
D. Drone Tree Seed Planter
Drone Seed is looking to corner the market on precision forestry. Not only can it do a potentially dangerous job of planting trees on the slopes of steep inclines but it can also potentially do it faster than by workers on foot.
E. Wind Turbine De-Icing Drone Sprayer
The Verge did an article on the company Aerones which built a large drone sprayer with some serious lifting capacity to fly up and spray de-icing fluid on wind turbine blades. The Verge article explained:
“The craft has a tether line supplying water, which it sprays at up to 100 liters a minute (with optional de-icing coating), and another for power, meaning it can stay aloft indefinitely. Cleaning by drone costs around $1,000, compared to $5,000 and up for cleaning by climbers.
The process is good for general maintenance, but also helps increase power efficiency. If snow and ice build up on a turbine’s blades, it slows the rate at which they produce power and can even bring it to a complete halt. Aerones adds that using a drone for de-icing is both quicker and safer than sending humans up using a cherry picker”
Drone Sprayer Economics
There is far more hype to this area that is being driven by possibilities rather than economics.
Drones are mobile platforms to spray from. There are other mobile platforms such as:
Each of these platforms has pros and cons that need to be weighed against the benefits of the drone sprayer. For the discussions below, I’m assuming someone would be purchasing something like the HSE or DJI drone sprayers.
1. Manned Aircraft (Airplanes & Helicopters) vs. Drone Sprayers
Manned Aircraft: Most drone sprayers cannot carry a large payload compared to manned aircraft. Manned aircraft also are lower in cost per acre than drone sprayer operations. For crop spraying, drone sprayers won’t be used for large acres of land because the spraying rate per day is also way too small compared to manned aircraft which can spray thousands of gallons in one day. This is a major point people miss. There are narrow windows of time to spray crops due to all sorts of things such as weather, chemical being sprayed, growth cycle, etc. Simply put, drone sprayers cannot spray fast enough because their tanks are small.
Drone Sprayers: Drones have the ability to service clients who have smaller amounts of land or area inaccessible to manned aircraft.
Ground Spraying Rigs: They do not have to deal with the FAA and all those hassles. They can also hold much more spraying material than a drone.
Drone Sprayers: Drone sprayers can access areas that ground spraying rigs cannot, such as uneven, steep, or inaccessible terrain or sensitive environments where the ground vehicles would damage the area or crops. Drone sprayers are lower in cost to purchase and maintain.
3. Humans (Backpack Sprayer)
Backpack Sprayer: Super cheap to purchase ($90) compared to a drone sprayer. No FAA problems.
Drone Sprayers: You can access areas with less danger to your employees. (Slip and fall anyone? Hello workers’ compensation claims.) Potentially more time efficient. Less exhausting than walking around with a hand pump sprayer. Depending on batteries and how quickly you can refill, this can be more time efficient than backpack sprayers.
So Where Do Drone Sprayers Fit In?
When you go to the home improvement store to buy some paint, you’ll notice that there are small spray paint cans, low cost electric paint sprayers, and large metal heavy duty commercial sprayers. By analogy, drone sprayers fill a sweet spot that is similar to low cost electric paint sprayers.
You have to focus on the strengths of drone sprayers to see where they shine:
Able to get into locations that manned aircraft, ground spraying tractors, or hand sprayers cannot access.
Safer than hand spraying.
Lower acquisition costs versus larger pieces of equipment (ground spraying tractors) or manned aircraft. Do you really need to buy that ground spraying rig?
Easy and low cost to transport and deploy. (Ground spraying rigs you have to drive or tow there. Manned aircraft you have to fly to the location).
Able to service smaller clients that would not have hired a manned aircraft.
Can You Give Me Some Drone Spraying Examples?
High value crops that tend to cover smaller acres of land (vineyards, apple orchards, almond orchards, etc.).
Spraying pollen on higher value crops to increase crop yields.
Crops on terrain that is too inaccessible or inconvenient to get to with a ground sprayer yet is too small to justify hiring a manned aircraft spraying operation.
Herbicide spraying on rocky embankments near a water reservoir where you don’t want to endanger your employees or you have a hard time getting to the rocky areas with the ground rig.
Mosquito abatement in areas that ground vehicles (or boats) cannot easily get to and that don’t justify the use of manned aircraft.
You’re a company that is running an in-house operation testing out aerial application of chemicals or on a particular type of plant.
What About Costs? How Much Does a Spraying Drone Operation Cost?
Yes, those examples didn’t really take into account the total drone sprayer operational costs. Here are some rough numbers you can use to go off of:
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Related:
FAA Registration ($5 per drone). Good for 3 years.
FAA Remote Pilot Certificate Knowledge Exam ($150 per remote pilot). Aeronautical test knowledge is good for 24 months.
Spraying Pesticide? You’ll need a state restricted use pesticide license. (Around $100 to $250). Things can cause this to fluctuate so you’ll have to check your state.)
If you need my help with exemptions, a Part 107 night waiver, going through the 137 agricultural aircraft operator certification, please contact me for pricing.
Now before you start making business plans. You need to know that these drones are considered aircraft. Aircraft are regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”). In addition to the FAA, other U.S. Federal laws may apply to your operation.
Here are the two most important things you need to know about Part 107 in relation to spraying drones:
Part 107 is only for drones that weigh on take-off less than 55 pounds and
You cannot carry hazardous material on the drone.
Now these are not deal breakers but you’ll need exemptions from these restrictions. Exemptions do not cost anything to file with the FAA but they do take time and legal knowledge to make sure you have identified all the regulations you need to be exempted from. If you don’t have the time or knowledge, you can hire people, like me, to help you with this.
Also keep in mind that for 55 pound + exemptions, there are documents and data the FAA will want you to submit in support with the exemption. This data might NOT be supplied by the drone sprayer manufacturers, which means you need to create it or find someone who has. See tips below for more on this topic.
Part 137 – Agricultural Aircraft Operations.
Part 137 specifically defines the applicability of this Part of the Code of Federal Regulations. Agricultural aircraft operation means the operation of an aircraft for the purpose of:
Dispensing any economic poison,
Dispensing any other substance intended for plant nourishment, soil treatment, propagation of plant life, or pest control, or
Engaging in dispensing activities directly affecting agriculture, horticulture, or forest preservation, but not including the dispensing of live insects.
Economic poison means (1) any substance or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling, or mitigating any insects, rodents, nematodes, fungi, weeds, and other forms of plant or animal life or viruses, except viruses on or in living man or other animals, which the Secretary of Agriculture shall declare to be a pest, and (2) any substance or mixture of substances intended for use as a plant regulator, defoliant or desiccant.
Most spraying operations fall into the applicability of Part 137 and because of such, they’ll need exemptions from sections of this part. Why? Part 137 was created a long long time ago. The regulations designed for manned aircraft do not make sense with drone sprayers. Conveniently, if you are already getting an exemption from the prohibition in Part 107 to not carry hazardous materials (like economic poisons), you can just add the sections of Part 137 that you need exempting from all into one request for exemption document.
Here is a major point that people miss. In addition to the exemption to do agricultural aircraft operations, the operator will need to obtain an agricultural aircraft operator certificate. You can thankfully pursue both the exemption and certificate in parallel to speed things up but you’ll need the exemption approval before you get inspected by the FAA as the final step in getting your agricultural aircraft operator certificate.
2. Other Federal Regulations
Keep in mind the FAA isn’t the only federal agency you might have to deal with. There is also the Environmental Protection Agency and also the Occupational and Health Safety Administration which have regulations that apply. Discussing these regulations is way outside the scope of this article but I wanted to mention this.
B. State & Local Drone Spraying Laws
There are state and local laws that apply to aerial application spraying (manned and unmanned spraying). This is a very broad area but just know that states require you to obtain some type of restricted use pesticide license to spray any economic poisons and typically you need the certification in the category you are performing the work (aerial application).
Some states require you have your drone sprayer registered with the FAA and even the state. The state won’t issue any state registration until you also show some drone insurance on your drone sprayer. This means you won’t be able to do some type of hourly insurance set up but will have to obtain annual insurance and request a certificate of insurance to show to the state.
Local laws also might apply depending on what you are spraying, when you are spraying, and where you are spraying.
Drone Sprayers (and Spreaders) for Sale
Right now, there are some companies that are manufacturing spraying drones. The drone sprayers listed below are ones I’m familiar with. I didn’t do an exhaustive search for all that is out there.
Very important point: if any of the manufacturers or resellers refer you to other companies for legal or consulting assistance, ask them if they are receiving referral fees from that person or companies. You want to find out if the recommendation was because the consultant or attorney was the best person for the job, not because they were giving kickbacks. As a Florida-barred attorney, I’m prohibited from providing referral fees to not attorneys and have never done so.
Some of these companies also have foggers and spreaders that mount onto the aircraft.
Keep in mind you don’t just buy the drone sprayer. You’ll be also thinking about purchasing a transport case, extra batteries, training, etc.
Tips on Starting a Drone Sprayer Operation (Read This Before You Buy)
1. Work With an Attorney
A. Attorney Client Relationship Protects Sensitive Conversations. The attorney-client privilege protects conversations between the client and the attorney. This allows for open conversations regarding the legality of the operations. “Was I supposed to do……..” or “We just received a letter of investigation” are supposed to be brought up in the open and honest attorney-client discussion. There are alot of regulations that apply. Do you really want to rely on a non-attorney to give you legal advice? You’re the one getting the fines, not the consultant.
Please note that it is ATTORNEY client relationship and not consultant client relationship. The FAA, federal and state law enforcement, plaintiff’s attorneys, etc. can subpoena your consultant to testify against you. They can’t do that with an attorney except for really rare situations. The consultant is stuck between a rock and a hard place. They either tell the truth and goof you up, lie and risk jail, or refuse to answer and go to jail. The answer is simple – you’ll get goofed over every time.
B. An attorney can actually provide legal advice – lawfully. You’re going to need a lot of answers regarding the laws. Almost all the states I know of require that people who provide legal advice be licensed attorneys in that state. Only attorneys can provide legal advice. If anyone claims they are an attorney, check the state bar directory in which they live to see if they are a current member in good standing. For example, if you go to the Florida Bar’s member search page, you can search for me and see that I’m eligible to practice law and in good standing with the Florida Bar.
I know of a person running around in the industry right now that calls themselves an attorney but that person is actually a disbarred attorney who was disbarred because of dishonest conduct towards the client. It will look pretty bad to your boss if you hire a so-called attorney who turns out to not be a LICENSED attorney.
C. They have a duty to you. – This is an important one. Yes, we all understand the idea of giving secrets away to a competitor is a big no-no. But consider this….as a Florida Bar attorney, I’m actually prohibited from paying out to any non-attorney or drone manufacturers any referral fees. This means that if I recommend something or someone, I’m recommending it because it is good, not because I’m getting paid for it. Furthermore, this means that people who refer to me are sending you to me because I’m the best person to help, NOT that I’m giving them a kickback.
D. Protection. Most attorneys have legal malpractice insurance which is there to protect you in case there is a mistake. I don’t know of any consultants that have legal malpractice insurance to protect you if they advise you incorrectly on the aviation regulations or the other laws that apply to this area. Furthermore, attorneys go through background checks to get barred. Consultants don’t have to get checked out.
2. Are You Planning on Flying 55 Pounds or Heavier in the United States?
A. Limited Payload. To fly under Part 107, your drone sprayer needs to weigh under 55 pounds on take-off. It could have the capability to fly heavier, but you need to keep it under. This is an important point because you could purchase a drone sprayer capable of flying over 55 pounds but you’ll be forced to limit the amount of liquid in your tanks for the drone and liquid together to be under 55 pounds at take-off.
B. More Costs & Different Rules. The amount of effort to fly a drone sprayer weighing 55 pounds or heavier is much more considerable than just flying under Part 107 without an exemption. Keep in mind you cannot just get a remote pilot certificate and fly a 55+ drone sprayer. The pilot will need the more costly sport pilot certificate and will be operating under a completely different set of regulations than Part 107. This means your up front costs WILL be higher for flying a 55+ drone than for an under 55 drone. This also means that if you want to scale out the drone spraying operation, you’ll need to pay for training to get the employee a sport pilot certificate or recruit people that already have this license or higher. It might make sense for your operation to have multiple under 55 pound drone sprayers and maybe one or more 55+ drone sprayers for larger jobs.
C. Lack of Reliability Data. This is actually the worst one. For a 55+ exemption, the FAA will ask for information on the drone sprayer, such as how many total hours have been flown on it to show engineering reliability. This is different than manuals. Is there any supporting data that shows this type of air frame is safe? This means you’ll most likely have to obtain the drone sprayer data yourself or find someone who already has. Maybe in the future the FAA will approve other 55+ exemptions based upon someone doing the previous leg work on the same make and model of drone sprayer but I have yet to see that.
D. Registration Planning. The easy online method of registering the drone sprayer under Part 48 is for only drone sprayers that will be operated under 55 pounds. This means you’ll have to go through the headache of de-registering under Part 48 and re-registering under Part 47 which is a pain in and of itself. Proper planning would say if you plan on going 55+ with your drone sprayer, just register under Part 47 which is good for both under 55 and 55+ operations.
Drone sprayers provide great opportunities for certain types of operations but not all situations. To help you achieve your drone sprayer goals quickly and legally, it is best to work with someone who has familiarity with the area.
If you are planning on navigating this difficult area, contact me. I’m a commercial pilot, current FAA certificated flight instructor, aviation attorney, and former professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. I am currently assisting clients in these matters and HAVE successfully obtained exemption approvals for clients to do drone spraying. I’m also familiar with the non-aviation related legal issues that are extremely important for drone sprayer operations.
The Gatwick Airport drone incident has caused us to see the
need for counter-drone technology, but while most commentary is focusing on
only short-term issues and solutions (“Just shoot it down”), what is not being recognized
is the need for a complete end-to-end solution which would involve training law
enforcement and prosecutors to arrest and prosecute these types of events to a successful
You might have thought, “Why can’t they just shoot it down?”
or “Don’t we have some technology that can prevent this? There are different
types of counter-drone technology out there. You can classify these
technologies typically into two categories: (1) detectors and (2) defenders. Detectors do just that, detect drones using
different methods (radar, radio waves, etc.). Defenders disrupt or destroy the
unmanned aircraft using all sorts of creative technology (shotgun shells,
jammers, GPS signal spoofers, lasers, and even trained eagles.) Each of the
types of technology has a different price tag and effectiveness for different
types of scenarios.
Fundamental to understanding the counter-drone technology is
a knowledge of law, for it is within the law that the technology is used. They
cannot be separated. In the United States, there are anti-jamming
laws and anti-GPS-spoofing
laws. It is illegal to damage
or destroy an aircraft or hack
into a drone. If that was not
enough, you potentially open yourself to extra lawsuit liability from plaintiff
attorneys whose clients might have been hurt because of the illegal operation.
The liability is because the operation of the technology
could cause problems for other people like those using airports. In October 2016,
sent out a letter to airports regarding uncoordinated counter-drone
technology, “Unauthorized [drone] detection and counter measure deployments [at
airports] can create a host of problems, such as electromagnetic and Radio
Frequency (RF) interference affecting safety of flight and air traffic
Airport environments have numerous sources of
potential radio interference which makes drones hard to detect.
“A high level of manpower is required to operate
equipment and discern false positives such as when a detection system may
falsely identify another moving object as a [drone].”
“The primary factor in determining the
feasibility of installing a permanent system at an airport is the number of sensors
needed to achieve the desired airspace coverage.” Different sensors have unique
characteristics, requirements, and coverage distances.
Due to the nature of airports being operated by
many entities (TSA, FBOs, airport management, etc.) it might be hard to acquire
Due to the rapidly developing counter-drone technology,
it becomes obsolete upon installation.
Basically, it’s not an easy, or cheap, thing to try to stop a
drone near an airport.
But can anyone do anything to stop these drones? Yes, multiple
federal laws have been passed within the last two years to give counter-drone use
authority to Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, United
States Coast Guard, Department of Energy, and Department of Defense. But even
with these new laws, there will still be a need to determine safe and effective
rules of engagement regarding these bad drones. DHS and DOJ will be working on
this quickly in light of recent event.
So let’s say you have the technology and track
down the bad guy, now what? The next two logical steps are arrest and prosecute.
But these two steps raise all sorts of issues that even lawyers have a hard
time wrestling with. I’ve talked to law enforcement officers who wondered “What
in the world am I supposed to do if I catch the bad guy?” The situation is
similar to a dog that barks and runs after a car; when it catches the car, it
doesn’t really know what to do next. If
you arrest under some state law that was created to stop the drone problem, you
run into unlawful arrest and preemption problems. If you think federal law is
being violated, are you as a state or local law enforcement officer within your
jurisdiction to arrest them?
Assuming you catch the bad guy and turn
over the case to a prosecutor, does the state or federal prosecutor even know
what to do with this bad guy? The FAA sends out letters of investigation but
has historically prosecuted very few individuals or companies flying drones. The U.S.
Government Accountability Office May 2018 report listed a total 49 legal
enforcement actions from the FAA from June 7, 2007 to May 2, 2018. Department
of Transportation’s Inspector General’s Office has done some investigations but
overall prosecutions are rare.
Here is what we need – a long-term vision
of detecting, defending, and prosecuting the bad drone actors all the way to a successful
This end goal will help us make decisions
going forward. For example, drones do have all sorts of data on them that can
be used by law enforcement for tracking down the bad guy and prosecuting them. David Kovar has a presentation
on drone data forensics and the National Institute of Standards and
Technology even created
a database of forensic images of many popular drones to help law enforcement.
We would shy away from destructive defenders and try to capture the drone
intact so we can try and extract any forensic data from it to lead to an arrest
This end goal of trying to obtain successful
convictions would also mean we need appropriate training for law enforcement
officers and prosecutors regarding potential problems and solutions that can
arise during arrest and prosecution.
In the end, we want only the bad guy to be
uncertain and indecisive – not law enforcement.
The Wall Street Journal reported recently that Uber put up a job posting for an executive position at UberExpress, the drone delivery operation within the UberEats food delivery unit, to help get the drones up and running sometime in 2019, with commercial drone delivery of food planned in multiple locations by 2021. This isn’t the first as other companies have announced their interest or plans in offering drone delivery services of which Amazon is the most popular. (I previously wrote an in-depth article on Amazon’s legal problems.) To keep things in context, this was a job posting to try and hire someone for an executive position, not the layout of an integration plan for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
UberExpress is going to face issues with the federal government as well as the states that the commercial drone delivery services will be offered in. On top of that, some counties, cities, and towns have created laws that could affect the operations as well. For one given flight, you could have federal, state, county, and city laws applying to the flight, some which could even be contradicting each other!
From a federal government standpoint, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is going to be the biggest problem. (Other federal agencies will affect operations such as Department of Transportation, Federal Communications Commission, etc.) The FAA has two ways of currently allowing companies to get airborne legally: (1) Part 107 and (2) through the rest of the Federal Aviation Regulations while getting special regulatory approvals to operate under alternative restrictions. Yes, the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 is trying to make things easier, but the rulemaking process takes time (around 2.5 years from notice of proposed rulemaking to final rule taking effect).
Both of these methods have problems.
Part 107 limits the aircraft to the visual line of sight of the pilot flying the drone and you cannot fly over people unless you have a waiver to do so. Over people waiver approvals have around a 99% rejection rate from the FAA.
The other method of operating is under all of the rest of the Federal Aviation Regulations, that were originally designed for manned aviation, which is problematic because you have to go through and identify all the problem regulations you cannot easily comply with and then ask for an exemption from the FAA to fly under alternative restrictions. This will be extremely legal and time-intensive. This method at least offers the ability to fly beyond-line-of-sight of the pilot, which allows one delivery drone to cover a greater area, as opposed to Part 107 which is just line-of-sight. The exemption method will still have issues with flying over people, avoiding other aircraft, etc. which will all have to be addressed during the exemption process.
From a state and local legal standpoint, UberExpress will be like water and take the path of least resistance -but they have to find it first. A good amount of effort will go into just identifying which geographical locations would have the least amount of legal headaches and/or if there is a need to change the law via lobbying or through a lawsuit. Regarding lawsuits, while the law is very clear that aviation is regulated only by the federal government, it can be time consuming and costly to try and get a court ruling in your favor. But why fight it out with lobbying and lawsuits when some states have wisely created laws that prevent local governments from creating any drone laws. Florida has a drone law that prevents local governments from creating laws “relating to the design, manufacture, testing, maintenance, licensing, registration, certification, or operation of an unmanned aircraft system[.]”
2. The Economics
Here are two important points regarding using drones for delivery: 1) law and safety drive the economics of the aviation industry and 2) operational possibility does not equal operational profitability.
The FAA is a safety organization. They are focused on just that. I remember being on the phone one time with an FAA employee in D.C. who emphatically told me, “The FAA is not interested in your business. We only care about safety.” Businesses will do a balancing test to see if the additional levels of safety are really worth the extra costs for the safety increase while the FAA it is mostly just doing a safety analysis. A recent National Academies of Science report which exposed many of the problems inside the FAA stated, “operation of UAS has many advantages and may improve the quality of life for people around the world. Avoiding risk entirely by setting the safety target too high creates imbalanced risk decisions and can degrade overall safety and quality of life.” The FAA has a very high target for safety……and does not care about your business.
Setting aside the FAA’s heavy focus on safety, the regulations limit your operational capability which means potentially higher infrastructure/operational costs. Part 107 can only allow flights to be flown within line of sight. Even assuming you tried to initially get something going under Part 107, the line of sight issue (let’s just say you can see the aircraft 1 mile out) will limit the amount of surface area you can cover so you’ll need more aircraft….and pilots….and maintenance which means more overhead costs. Obtaining an exemption to fly beyond line of sight package delivery is the best option but will be time consuming and legal intensive initially which means those operations will not be happening anytime soon.
On top of the regulations limiting operations, they also increase your cost of operations. You have to have certified pilots, aircraft, maintenance schedules, etc. that need to be all operated according to aviation standards or some sort of “flavor” of those standards.
While there are many examples on the news showing the possibility of drone delivery, I think the early adopters of profitable delivery will be situations where there are delivery of items that are of a low payload weight and the cost of an alternative delivery method is unavailable or costly. A hamburger with fries will be a low payload weight but is the extra cost of drone delivery worth it to you when the next best alternative is UberEats or some other food delivery service? If cost is not a factor and availability is what you desire (little time to wait or you are in a hard to get to area), then this could be useful.
But why stop with food? UberExpress has the opportunity to expand and provide fast delivery for other low weight items where availability is an issue, such as medicines or blood to patients with time-sensitive problems.
UberExpress will be facing some regulatory challenges as they seek to integrate. As they navigate the constantly evolving area known as “drone law,” they will need to build out operations to benefit from large economies of scale to drive down the operational costs to where the cost of service will be comparable to other alternative methods of delivery already available that have been made efficient through years of experience.
Do you think this can or cannot be done? Would you as a consumer be willing to pay more for your food or other items to be delivered by drones quickly?
NOTICE: This article is for information purposes only! This article is ONLY for state laws that are DRONE specific. Local laws and “aircraft” related laws could potentially apply and were outside of the focus of this article. It might NOT be up to date. You should seek out a competent attorney licensed in the state you are interested in before operating.
Sec. 42.1. Regulation of unmanned aircraft systems. (a) As used in this Section: “Unmanned aircraft” means a device used or intended to be used for flight in the air that is operated without the possibility of direct human intervention within or on the device. “Unmanned aircraft system” means an unmanned aircraft and its associated elements, including communication links and the components that control the unmanned aircraft, that are required for the safe and efficient operation of the unmanned aircraft in the national airspace system.
(b) To the extent that State-level oversight does not conflict with federal laws, rules, or regulations, the regulation of an unmanned aircraft system is an exclusive power and function of the State. No unit of local government, including home rule unit, may enact an ordinance or resolution to regulate unmanned aircraft systems. This Section is a denial and limitation of home rule powers and functions under subsection (h) of Section 6 of Article VII of the Illinois Constitution. This Section does not apply to any local ordinance enacted by a municipality of more than 1,000,000 inhabitants.
(c) Nothing in this Section shall infringe or impede any current right or remedy available under existing State law.
(d) The Department may adopt any rules that it finds appropriate to address the safe and legal operation of unmanned aircraft systems in this State, so that those engaged in the operation of unmanned aircraft systems may so engage with the least possible restriction, consistent with their safety and with the safety and the rights of others, and in compliance with federal rules and regulations.
Sec. 8.12. To police its property and to exercise police powers in respect thereto or in respect to the enforcement of any rule or regulation provided by the ordinances of the Authority and to employ and establish, maintain, and equip a security force for fire and police protection of a public airport and to provide that the personnel of the security force shall perform other tasks relating to the maintenance and operation of that airport. Such a security force shall not be deemed to be a regularly constituted police or fire department within the meaning of Sections 10-3-1 and 10-3-2 of the Illinois Municipal Code. However, members of such security force are conservators of the peace and as such have all powers possessed by policemen in cities, and sheriffs, including the power to make arrests on view or warrants of violations of federal and state statutes, city or county ordinances and rules and regulations of the Authority and governing federal agencies; provided, that they may exercise such powers only within the area of jurisdiction of the Authority when such exercise is required for the protection of Authority properties and interests, its personnel and persons utilizing its facilities, and otherwise, within such jurisdiction, when specifically requested by appropriate federal, State or local law enforcement officials. With respect to any security force established for police protection, the members of such security force shall be persons who have successfully completed an approved training course or approved training program offered at a police training school established under the “Illinois Police Training Act”, as such Act may be now or hereafter amended. The members of such security force may not serve and execute civil processes.
Sec. 1. Short title. This Act may be cited as the Freedom from Drone Surveillance Act.
(Source: P.A. 98-569, eff. 1-1-14.)
(725 ILCS 167/5)
Sec. 5. Definitions. As used in this Act:
“Authority” means the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority.
“Drone” means any aerial vehicle that does not carry a human operator.
“Information” means any evidence, images, sounds, data, or other information gathered by a drone.
“Law enforcement agency” means any agency of this State or a political subdivision of this State which is vested by law with the duty to maintain public order and to enforce criminal laws.
(Source: P.A. 98-569, eff. 1-1-14.)
(725 ILCS 167/10)
Sec. 10. Prohibited use of drones. Except as provided in Section 15, a law enforcement agency may not use a drone to gather information.
(Source: P.A. 98-569, eff. 1-1-14.)
(725 ILCS 167/15)
Sec. 15. Exceptions. This Act does not prohibit the use of a drone by a law enforcement agency:
(1) To counter a high risk of a terrorist attack by a specific individual or organization if the United States Secretary of Homeland Security determines that credible intelligence indicates that there is that risk.
(2) If a law enforcement agency first obtains a search warrant based on probable cause issued under Section 108-3 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963. The warrant must be limited to a period of 45 days, renewable by the judge upon a showing of good cause for subsequent periods of 45 days.
(3) If a law enforcement agency possesses reasonable suspicion that, under particular circumstances, swift action is needed to prevent imminent harm to life, or to forestall the imminent escape of a suspect or the destruction of evidence. The use of a drone under this paragraph (3) is limited to a period of 48 hours. Within 24 hours of the initiation of the use of a drone under this paragraph (3), the chief executive officer of the law enforcement agency must report in writing the use of a drone to the local State’s Attorney.
(4) If a law enforcement agency is attempting to locate a missing person, and is not also undertaking a criminal investigation.
(5) If a law enforcement agency is using a drone solely for crime scene and traffic crash scene photography. Crime scene and traffic crash photography must be conducted in a geographically confined and time-limited manner to document specific occurrences. The use of a drone under this paragraph (5) on private property requires either a search warrant based on probable cause under Section 108-3 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963 or lawful consent to search. The use of a drone under this paragraph (5) on lands, highways, roadways, or areas belonging to this State or political subdivisions of this State does not require a search warrant or consent to search. Any law enforcement agency operating a drone under this paragraph (5) shall make every reasonable attempt to only photograph the crime scene or traffic crash scene and avoid other areas.
(6) If a law enforcement agency is using a drone during a disaster or public health emergency, as defined by Section 4 of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency Act. The use of a drone under this paragraph (6) does not require an official declaration of a disaster or public health emergency prior to use. A law enforcement agency may use a drone under this paragraph (6) to obtain information necessary for the determination of whether or not a disaster or public health emergency should be declared, to monitor weather or emergency conditions, to survey damage, or to otherwise coordinate response and recovery efforts. The use of a drone under this paragraph (6) is permissible during the disaster or public health emergency and during subsequent response and recovery efforts.
Sec. 20. Information retention. If a law enforcement agency uses a drone under Section 15 of this Act, the agency within 30 days shall destroy all information gathered by the drone, except that a supervisor at that agency may retain particular information if:
(1) there is reasonable suspicion that the information contains evidence of criminal activity, or
(2) the information is relevant to an ongoing investigation or pending criminal trial.
(Source: P.A. 98-569, eff. 1-1-14.)
(725 ILCS 167/25)
Sec. 25. Information disclosure. If a law enforcement agency uses a drone under Section 15 of this Act, the agency shall not disclose any information gathered by the drone, except that a supervisor of that agency may disclose particular information to another government agency, if (1) there is reasonable suspicion that the information contains evidence of criminal activity, or (2) the information is relevant to an ongoing investigation or pending criminal trial.
(Source: P.A. 98-569, eff. 1-1-14.)
(725 ILCS 167/30)
Sec. 30. Admissibility. If the court finds by a preponderance of the evidence that a law enforcement agency used a drone to gather information in violation of the information gathering limits in Sections 10 and 15 of this Act, then the information shall be presumed to be inadmissible in any judicial or administrative proceeding. The State may overcome this presumption by proving the applicability of a judicially recognized exception to the exclusionary rule of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution or Article I, Section 6 of the Illinois Constitution to the information. Nothing in this Act shall be deemed to prevent a court from independently reviewing the admissibility of the information for compliance with the aforementioned provisions of the U.S. and Illinois Constitutions.
(Source: P.A. 98-569, eff. 1-1-14.)
(725 ILCS 167/35)
Sec. 35. Reporting.
(a) If a law enforcement agency owns one or more drones, then subsequent to the effective date of this Act, it shall report in writing annually by April 1 to the Authority the number of drones that it owns.
(b) On July 1 of each year, the Authority shall publish on its publicly available website a concise report that lists every law enforcement agency that owns a drone, and for each of those agencies, the number of drones that it owns.
(Source: P.A. 98-569, eff. 1-1-14.)
(725 ILCS 167/40)
Sec. 40. Law enforcement use of private drones.
(a) Except as provided in Section 15, a law enforcement agency may not acquire information from or direct the acquisition of information through the use of a drone owned by a private third party. In the event that law enforcement acquires information from or directs the acquisition of information through the use of a privately owned drone under Section 15 of this Act, any information so acquired is subject to Sections 20 and 25 of this Act.
(b) Nothing in this Act prohibits private third parties from voluntarily submitting information acquired by a privately owned drone to law enforcement. In the event that law enforcement acquires information from the voluntary submission of that information, whether under a request or on a private drone owner’s initiative, the information is subject to Sections 20 and 25 of this Act.
(Section scheduled to be repealed on September 1, 2017)
Sec. 1. Short title. This Act may be cited as the Unmanned Aerial System Oversight Task Force Act.
(Source: P.A. 99-392, eff. 8-18-15.)
(20 ILCS 5065/5)
(Section scheduled to be repealed on September 1, 2017)
Sec. 5. Purpose. The use of drones is becoming more common in everyday applications both commercially and privately. It is clear that increased drone use creates emerging conflicts and challenges to providing guidance into the safe operation of drones, while not infringing upon the constitutional rights of others. It is necessary to establish a task force to provide oversight and input in creating comprehensive laws and rules for the operation and use of drone technology within this State, subject to federal oversight and regulation.
(Source: P.A. 99-392, eff. 8-18-15.)
(20 ILCS 5065/10)
(Section scheduled to be repealed on September 1, 2017)
Sec. 10. Definitions. As used in this Act:
“Task Force” means the Unmanned Aerial System Oversight Task Force.
“Unmanned Aerial System” or “UAS” means an unmanned aerial vehicle or drone.
(Source: P.A. 99-392, eff. 8-18-15.)
(20 ILCS 5065/15)
(Section scheduled to be repealed on September 1, 2017)
Sec. 15. The Unmanned Aerial System Task Force.
(a) There is hereby created the Unmanned Aerial System Oversight Task Force to study and make recommendations for the operation, usage, and regulation of Unmanned Aerial Systems, commonly referred to as “drone” technology, within this State.
(b) Within 90 days after the effective date of this Act members of the Task Force shall be appointed by the Governor and shall consist of one member from each of the following agencies or interest groups:
(1) a member of the Division of Aeronautics of the Department of Transportation, nominated by the Secretary of Transportation;
(2) a member of the Department of State Police, nominated by the Director of State Police;
(3) a Conservation Police officer of the Department of Natural Resources, nominated by the Director of Natural Resources;
(4) a member of the Department of Agriculture, nominated by the Director of Agriculture;
(5) a member of the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, nominated by the Director of Commerce and Economic Opportunity;
(6) a UAS technical commercial representative;
(7) a UAS manufacturing industry representative;
(8) a person nominated by the Attorney General;
(9) a member of the Illinois Conservation Police Lodge, nominated by the president of the Lodge;
(10) a member of a statewide sportsmen’s federation, nominated by the president of the federation;
(11) a member of a statewide agricultural association, nominated by the president of the association;
(12) a member of a statewide commerce association, nominated by the president or executive director of the association;
(13) a person nominated by an electric utility company serving retail customers in this State;
(14) a member of the Illinois National Guard, nominated by the Adjutant General;
(15) a member of a statewide retail association, nominated by the president of the association;
(16) a member of a statewide manufacturing trade association, nominated by the president or chief executive officer of the association;
(17) a member of a statewide property and casualty insurance association, nominated by the president or chief executive officer of the association;
(18) a member of a statewide association representing real estate brokers licensed in this State, nominated by the president of the association;
(19) a member of a statewide surveying association, nominated by the president of the association;
(20) a law enforcement official from a municipality with a population of 2 million or more inhabitants, nominated by the mayor of the municipality;
(21) a law enforcement official from a municipality with a population of less than 2 million inhabitants, nominated by a statewide police chiefs association;
(22) a member of a statewide freight railroad association, nominated by the president of the association; and
(23) a member of a statewide broadcasters association, nominated by the president of the association.
(b-5) Within 90 days after the effective date of this amendatory Act of the 99th General Assembly, 8 members of the Task Force shall also be appointed as follows: 2 members appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, 2 members appointed by the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, 2 members appointed by the President of the Senate, and 2 members appointed by the Minority Leader of the Senate.
(c) Nominations to the Task Force must be submitted to the Governor within 60 days of August 18, 2015 (the effective date of Public Act 99-392), except that the nomination from a statewide broadcasters association shall be made within 60 days after the effective date of this amendatory Act of the 99th General Assembly. The Governor shall make the appointments within 30 days after the close of nominations. The term of the appointment shall be until submission of the report of comprehensive recommendations under subsection (g) of this Section. The member from the Division of Aeronautics of the Department of Transportation shall chair the Task Force and serve as a liaison to the Governor and General Assembly. Meetings of the Task Force shall be held as necessary to complete the duties of the Task Force. Meetings of the Task Force shall be held in the central part of the State.
(d) The members of the Task Force shall receive no compensation for serving as members of the Task Force.
(e) The Task Force shall consider commercial and private uses of drones, landowner and privacy rights, as well as general rules and regulations for safe operation of drones, and prepare comprehensive recommendations for the safe and lawful operation of UAS in this State.
(f) The Department of Transportation shall provide administrative support to the Task Force.
(g) The Task Force shall submit a report with recommendations to the Governor and General Assembly no later than July 1, 2017.
“Aquatic life” means all fish, reptiles, amphibians, crayfish, and mussels the taking of which is authorized by the Fish and Aquatic Life Code.
“Interfere with” means to take any action that physically impedes, hinders, or obstructs the lawful taking of wildlife or aquatic life.
“Taking” means the capture or killing of wildlife or aquatic life and includes travel, camping, and other acts preparatory to taking which occur on lands or waters upon which the affected person has the right or privilege to take such wildlife or aquatic life.
“Wildlife” means any wildlife the taking of which is authorized by the Wildlife Code and includes those species that are lawfully released by properly licensed permittees of the Department of Natural Resources.
(b) A person commits hunter or fisherman interference when he or she intentionally or knowingly: ………
(10) uses a drone in a way that interferes with another person’s lawful taking of wildlife or aquatic life. For the purposes of this paragraph (10), “drone” means any aerial vehicle that does not carry a human operator.
(c) Exemptions; defenses.
(1) This Section does not apply to actions performed by authorized employees of the Department of Natural Resources, duly accredited officers of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, sheriffs, deputy sheriffs, or other peace officers if the actions are authorized by law and are necessary for the performance of their official duties.
(2) This Section does not apply to landowners, tenants, or lease holders exercising their legal rights to the enjoyment of land, including, but not limited to, farming and restricting trespass.
(3) It is an affirmative defense to a prosecution for a violation of this Section that the defendant’s conduct is protected by his or her right to freedom of speech under the constitution of this State or the United States.
(4) Any interested parties may engage in protests or other free speech activities adjacent to or on the perimeter of the location where the lawful taking of wildlife or aquatic life is taking place, provided that none of the provisions of this Section are being violated.
(d) Sentence. A first violation of paragraphs (1) through (8) of subsection (b) is a Class B misdemeanor. A second or subsequent violation of paragraphs (1) through (8) of subsection (b) is a Class A misdemeanor for which imprisonment for not less than 7 days shall be imposed. A person guilty of a second or subsequent violation of paragraphs (1) through (8) of subsection (b) is not eligible for court supervision. A violation of paragraph (9) or (10) of subsection (b) is a Class A misdemeanor. A court shall revoke, for a period of one year to 5 years, any Illinois hunting, fishing, or trapping privilege, license or permit of any person convicted of violating any provision of this Section. For purposes of this subsection, a “second or subsequent violation” means a conviction under paragraphs (1) through (8) of subsection (b) of this Section within 2 years of a prior violation arising from a separate set of circumstances.
(e) Injunctions; damages.
(1) Any court may enjoin conduct which would be in violation of paragraphs (1) through (8) or (10) of subsection (b) upon petition by a person affected or who reasonably may be affected by the conduct, upon a showing that the conduct is threatened or that it has occurred on a particular premises in the past and that it is not unreasonable to expect that under similar circumstances it will be repeated.
(2) A court shall award all resulting costs and damages to any person adversely affected by a violation of paragraphs (1) through (8) or (10) of subsection (b), which may include an award for punitive damages. In addition to other items of special damage, the measure of damages may include expenditures of the affected person for license and permit fees, travel, guides, special equipment and supplies, to the extent that these expenditures were rendered futile by prevention of the taking of wildlife or aquatic life.
I have compiled the various drone lawsuits/litigation/prosecutions into the list below.
There has been a wide range of drone-related cases in the last couple of years ranging from flamethrowers mounted on drones to a drone crashing into a wedding guest. I’m going to refer them collectively as drone lawsuits.
Some of the drone lawsuits I have written in-depth articles on, while other drone lawsuits I might just cite an article. If you know of a drone lawsuit that I have NOT put up here, please send me an email! :)
The drone lawsuits list below is broken up into Federal courts, Federal administrative courts (e.g. NTSB), and then state courts. Note that for criminal cases, I ONLY included cases where the prosecutor has chosen to file charges. There are many more individuals who have been arrested for flying a drone but the prosecutors for whatever reason did not choose to file charges. I did not include any drug transportation or prison-drop related prosecutions since those really aren’t drone cases but just drug or contraband cases.
Notice: I try to keep this drone lawsuits list up to date. This page MIGHT not be up to date with rulings. Think of this page more of a starting point to research further into the final outcomes.
If you are a person who has a drone-related mater outside of Florida, but you want to work with me, hire a local attorney in your state and tell them to contact me. If you are an attorney and need my help for a drone-related matter, please contact me.
Most of the criminal cases tend to be prosecuted under the state law equivalent of careless and reckless endangerment or something along those lines. The other batch of prosecutions has to do with violations of exporting technology associated with military drones.
DJI’s lawsuits involve them being on the receiving end of a class action or DJI being the plaintiff in a patent infringement lawsuit.
Then there is everything else. The civil drone lawsuits are all over the place (an Equal Protection Clause challenge against a state drone law, injured people suing drone flyers, products liability, breach of contract, etc.).
Drone Lawsuits in Federal Courts
Federal Circuit Court
John Taylor v. FAA II (4th case)- Adjudicated.
John Taylor v. FAA I (Really 3 cases. Court consolidated them. ) – Adjudicated. Taylor beat the FAA. D.C. Circuit held the drone registration rules were illegally created. Keep in mind the National Defense Authorization Act of 2017 overruled this case.
Tech Freedom v. FAA – Voluntarily dismissed because this missed statutory time to file. They joined as an amicus brief to the Taylor I set of cases.
Robert Taylor v. FAA – Class action lawsuit over the registration regulations currently being litigated in the D.C. Circuit seeking around $840 million in damages and fees. Dismissed.
Reichert v. FAA – Currently being litigated. Class action lawsuit against the FAA seeking to destroy the FAA registry and get the money back to all those who have registered.
Singer v. City of Newton – Adjudicated. Federal District Court of Massachusetts struck down the local drone ordinance as being unconstitutional. It was appealed by the City to the appeals court but the City asked for the case to be dismissed which the court granted.
FAA v. Haughwout case (the kid with the gun and the drone) is currently being litigated a federal district court in Connecticut and the only order was that the FAA’s subpoena powers were very broad.
Flores v. State of Texas – Currently being litigated in the Southern Federal District Court of Texas on whether the Texas state drone law violates the Equal Protection Clause.
Boggs v. Meredith case in the federal Western District Court of Kentucky which was dismissed. Boggs’ drone was shot down by Meredith. Boggs sued in federal court claiming the drone was in navigable airspace (which means he was not trespassing in Meredith’s airspace) and was entitled to compensation. The court dismissed the case because the court did not have the subject matter jurisdiction to decide the case and the case should be resolved in Kentucky state court.
DJI v. Yuneec – DJI is suing Yuneec alleging patent infringement.
Justice Laub v. Nicholas Horbaczewski et al – Laub alleges that Horbaczewski breached a contract. They are demanding $9,900,000 from Horbaczewski and Drone Racing League, Inc. Both Horbaczewski and Drone Racing League, Inc. have sued in New York state court asking for a declaration that Laub is not an owner of Drone Racing League.
United States v. Porrata – Defendant was sentenced to 5 years in prison and a $1.5 million fine for scamming investors with their sham drone manufacturing company.
The Inspector General for the Department of Transportation mentioned that their have been some investigations by the Department of Transportation against drone flyers. “Finally, prosecuting UAS owners who violate FAA regulations or engage in illegal flight activities has been challenging. Since 2016, our Office of Investigations has opened 23 cases involving illegal operation of UAS. However, 10 of these cases were closed in the preliminary complaint phase, and were declined for prosecution for various reasons, such as the inability to prove criminal intent and a lack of prior prosecutions. Ultimately, further attention is needed to ensure FAA has strong oversight and enforcement mechanisms in place so it can effectively identify violations and mitigate the safety risks associated with increased UAS operations.”
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA v. CORVUS EYE PRODUCTIONS LLC – FAA was investigating Corvus and the owner. They sent a subpoena to the owner of Corvus. One thing led to another and the FAA worked with a U.S. Attorney to request a federal judge to order Corvus and owner to comply with the subpoena. The judge ordered the subpoena because the owner defaulted.
Department of Transportation has been doing some investigations on some UAS operators. The DOT IG’s office testified, “Since 2016, our Office of Investigations has opened 23 cases involving illegal operation of UAS. However, 10 of these cases were closed in the preliminary complaint phase, and 9 were declined for prosecution for various reasons, such as the inability to prove criminal intent and a lack of prior prosecutions.” 23-10-9= 4 still open?
Drone Lawsuits in State Courts
Mark Anderson v. Aerovironment Inc., Et. Al. – Wrongful termination case in Los Angeles Superior Court where Anderson he was wrongfully terminated because the defendant transported at least one drone with a live bomb on a Delta airlines flight. Bloomberg article on it. In-depth investor report on it.
Telling v. DJI – Class action lawsuit against DJI in Los Angeles Superior Court
City of San Francisco v. Lily – The district attorney for San Francisco is suing the company Lily for false advertising and unfair business practices.
Joe v. McBay – Small claims case. McBay shot down Joe’s drone. The judge ordered McBay to pay for the shot-down drone.
Pituch v. Pi Kappa Phi
Pituch v. Perfect Event Inc. – Pi Kappa Phi of the University of Southern California hired Perfect Event to throw a party. One of the two defendants hired the drone operator who crashed the drone into the plaintiff’s head. She is suing both defendants for negligence and premises liability.
Boustred & Horizon Hobby v. Align Corporation – On appeal, court affirmed lower courts judgment denying Align’s motion to dismiss the case against them. Align is a Taiwanese company who sells model aircraft through Horizon Hobby. Boustred lost an eye when the toy helicopter broke and is now suing Align and Horizon Hobby under strict product liability. The appeals court affirmed the trial courts ruling that personal jurisdiction can be held over a Taiwanese company.
Pedro Rivera, v. Brian Foley, Edward Yergeau, & Hartford Police Department– Plaintiff works for a TV station and responded to a police scene while NOT working (his own free time). Plaintiff flew his drone and the police officer responded to the plaintiff’s flight. Police officer called Plaintiff’s employer and made suggestions that Plaintiff should be disciplined to maintain goodwill. Plaintiff was suspended for a week. Plaintiff sued claiming his constitutional rights were violated.
Commonwealth of Kentucky v. Meredith – The famous “drone slayer” case where Meredith shot down the drone. He was prosecuted for criminal mischief and wanton endangerment. The judge dismissed the case saying, “He had a right to shoot at this drone, and I’m gonna dismiss this charge[.]” Note: there is also a federal district court case associated with this case.
Ellis v. Searles Castle – Billcliff, the groom, was getting married at Searles Castle. He was flying a drone. He went to go dance and put his drone down. Someone flew the drone and crashed it into a wedding guest, Ellis. She is now suing Billcliff and also the Searles Castle for damages.
Eaton, the other girl injured along with Ellis, is also suing Billcliff and Searles Castles.
Russel Percenti shot down a drone and was prosecuted for possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose and criminal mischief.
State v. Beesmer – Adjudicated not guilty. Flew his drone outside a hospital and was charged with unlawful surveillance. Held not guilty by jury.
State v. Daniel Verley – New York City teacher crashed his drone into U.S. Open tennis match. He was prosecuted. They entered a plea deal to do community service.
State v. Riddle – Guy crashed into the Empire State Building. Was prosecuted. Pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct. He has to pay a $200 fine and complete two days of community service.
State v. Turgeon – Adjudicated not guilty. Criminal prosecution for flying a drone allegedly near an airplane near the Dakota Pipeline protests. He was charged with a felony and two misdemeanors.
State v. Dewey – Criminal prosecution for stalking. Dewey was flying a drone during the Dakota Pipeline protests.
State v. Brossart – Not really a drone case, but a predator drone was used to track down a man. The crazy part is this was in 2012! This is more of a 4th amendment case.
Commonwealth v. Roselli. Adjudicated guilty and put on probation for 2 years. Roselli flew his drone near a helicopter. He was charged with risking a catastrophe (felony) and recklessly endangering another person (misdemeanor). He did a plea deal. He pleaded nolo contedere to the misdemeanor and the prosecutor dropped the charges for the felony. He was put on probation for 2 years and to pay court costs.
State v. Haddox – Haddox was flying his drone during “CMA Fest activities and the Predators watch party on Broadway.” He was arrested and charged with reckless endangerment and trespass. The “reckless endangerment charge stems from Haddox being unable to maintain line of sight of the drone and flying it over a ticketed event with thousands of persons present.” The two dockets are here.
City of Seattle v. Skinner – First drone flyer ever to be sentenced to jail for flying a drone. He flew over a gay pride parade and the drone crashed into a woman.
The woman who was injured is suing Skinner to recover damages for the crash.
Are you interested in the Part 107 initial or recurrent knowledge test?
In this article we will discuss (1) the Part 107 initial knowledge test, (2) the Part 107 recurrent knowledge test, (3) the differences between both tests, (4) practice Part 107 initial and recurrent knowledge test, (5) actual language from 107.73, and (6) the FAA’s commentary on knowledge tests from the preamble to the Small Unmanned Aircraft Rule.
This article on the initial and recurrent knowledge test is part of an overall set of articles on each of the Part 107 drone regulations. Use these links below for navigation between the regulation pages.
If you want to fly commercial in the United States, you’ll most likely be flying under Part 107 which requires a remote pilot certificate. To obtain for the first time a remote pilot certificate, you’ll need to take and pass a Part 107 initial knowledge test. If you are a current Part 61 certificated manned pilot, you have an option of going another method. See my step-by-step instructions page on how to obtain your remote pilot certificate.
The Part 107 initial knowledge test contains 60 questions and you have 120 minutes to take it. The subject areas on the exam are: (1) regulations, (2) airspace, (3) weather, (4) loading and performance, and (5) operations. You’ll need to pass the exam with a score of 70% or higher.
Part 107 Recurrent Knowledge Test
Individuals who have obtained their remote pilot certificates have to maintain their aeronautical knowledge currency by doing 1 of 3 methods. Section 107.65 says, a “person may not operate a small unmanned aircraft system unless that person has completed one of the following, within the previous 24 calendar months:
(a) Passed an initial aeronautical knowledge test covering the areas of knowledge specified in §107.73(a);
(b) Passed a recurrent aeronautical knowledge test covering the areas of knowledge specified in §107.73(b); or
(c) If a person holds a pilot certificate (other than a student pilot certificate) issued under part 61 of this chapter and meets the flight review requirements specified in §61.56, passed either an initial or recurrent training course covering the areas of knowledge specified in §107.74(a) or (b) in a manner acceptable to the Administrator.”
One of the methods is to take the Part 107 recurrent knowledge test. This article is focused specifically on the initial and recurrent knowledge test. I have addressed elsewhere other issues like:
The recurrent knowledge test consists of 40 questions. You have 1.5 hours to take the exam. The subject areas consist of regulations, airspace, and operations.
Differences Between the Initial & Recurrent Knowledge Test
The initial has 60 questions while the recurrent knowledge test has 40 questions.
The initial gives you 120 minutes while the recurrent knowledge test is 80 minutes.
Since the number of questions decreased and also the number of subjects tested with the recurrent knowledge test, this might cause confusion as to how to spend your time studying. There are two ways at looking at how you should focus your time: (1) comparing using the airmen certification standards and (2) using the actual subject areas of the regulations.
Comparison Using the Airmen Certification Standards (ACS)
Here is a table I created comparing the initial to the recurrent knowledge test using the ACS.
Please note that while Area I and Area II are being tested completely, in the recurrent knowledge exam, tasks A. Radio Communications Procedures and E. Physiology are not tested so it’s really not ALL of Area V.
Comparison Using the Regulations
Another way of determining how to spend your time studying is looking at what the FAA really wants you to know based upon what the regulations specifically list. Section 107.73 and 107.74 list out specific areas.
Remember that the current manned pilots aircraft pilots have another way of getting current. They can take the online training courses. I took the topics from the initial and recurrent knowledge test and the topics from the initial and recurrent online training course and compared them in a table below.
The FAA is really emphasizing the first 4 subjects. You should know those areas like the back of your hand.
The 5th, 6th, and 7th lines also give you a clue that you MUST know that if you are going for an initial or recurrent knowledge test.
Part 107 Initial Knowledge Practice Test Questions
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Part 107 Recurrent Knowledge Test Practice Questions